Three foreigners held by Abu Sayyaf militants appeal for help in video


Canadian Robert Hall (centre), 50, pleading for his life in a video released by Abu Sayyaf. Beside him is fellow Canadian John Ridsdell, 68. - TheStraitsTimes/ANN

MANILA: Three foreigners kidnapped by militants in the Philippines nearly six months ago have appealed to their governments for help to secure their release, as their Al-Qaeda-linked captors issued a one month deadline for their demands to be met.

The three foreign men, who Philippine authorities have identified as two Canadians and a Norwegian, were shown in a video clip, along with a Filipino woman kidnapped with them, crouching on the ground with gunmen standing over them.

"To the Canadian prime minister and to the Canadian people in the world, please, do as needed to meet their demands, within one month or they will kill me, they will execute us," said one of the men who identified himself as Mr John Ridsdel, a Canadian mining consultant.

The three men were handcuffed and were thin, bearded and shirtless. The video clip of about a minute and a half was posted on a Facebook page linked to Philippine Islamists.

The four were kidnapped from a beach resort on a southern island last September. They are believed to be held in the jungle on Jolo island, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.

Another of the men, who identified himself as Mr Robert Hall, another Canadian, said he did not know how much money their captors were demanding but he appealed for help quickly.

A spokesman for Canada's foreign minister said the government was aware of the video but did not want to comment or provide new information in case it endangered the captives.

Calgary-based TVI Pacific, where Mr Ridsdel was a semi-retired consultant, declined to comment.

The third man, who identified himself as Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, made a similar appeal.

It was the third time the militants had released such video appeals from the captives.

In November, Mr Ridsdel said in a video that the militants were demanding one billion pesos (S$29 million) for each of them.

A militant spokesman appeared in the latest video to issue a one-month ultimatum though he did not specify demands.

"We will do something terrible against these captives," said the masked spokesman, who gave the date as March 8.

The September raid on the resort was a reminder of the precarious security in the resource-rich southern Philippines despite a 2014 peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group that ended 45 years of conflict.

Abu Sayyaf militants are holding other foreigners including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, and an Italian missionary. - Reuters

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