According to The Associated Press, effective July 18, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the government has ordered troops to locate the German tourists in Sulu province and ensure their safe recovery, but declined to explain what the unit's precise plan actually was.
Stefan Okonek and his female companion, Henrike Dielen, ages unknown, were abducted at gunpoint from a yacht between Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo Island and the western Philippine province of Palawan in April 2014, and then taken by boat to predominantly Muslim Sulu, about 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila, where the al-Qaeda-linked terror group, Abu Sayyaf, has held other hostages.
The couple reportedly have been missing for three months, but according to sources, have not been harmed.
German diplomats in Manila have declined to comment on the abduction, leaving resolution to the Philippine government.
COMMENT: Unless one lives on Mars, it is common knowledge that all foreign nationals should avoid the southern Philippines like the plague, but seemingly newcomers have so much more wisdom than seasoned diplomats.
Philippine police have reportedly obtained a photograph of a Caucasian couple squatting and holding onto a German flag while being surrounded by gunmen with masked faces. The gunmen in camouflage stand in front of a black flag often used by Abu Sayyaf.
Authorities are attempting to authenticate the photo, which has been seen by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.
The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin has formed a crisis management team and is coordinating with Philippine authorities.
According to Gen. Guerrero, the Abu Sayyaf is reportedly holding at least ten kidnap victims in the jungles of Sula, including the two Germans and two European birdwatchers who were kidnapped at least two years ago.
Abu Sayyaf have been using the long-held birdwatchers as “human shields” from relentless government offensives.
In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped 21 European tourists, including three Germans, and Malaysian and Filipino workers from Malaysia’s Sipadan diving resort and brought them to Sulu, where they eventually were freed in exchange for a lucrative ransom demand.