Thursday, September 25, 2014

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf Threatens to Kill German Couple Unless Berlin Withdraws Support to US

According to the UK-based The Guardian, Abu Sayyaf Islamists report that German hostages, ages 71 and 55, respectively, will be killed unless Germany withdraws support for the US-led offensive against IS in Syria and Iraq. 

Islamists in Muslim-held Sula province have threatened to kill two German hostages unless Germany pays a ransom and withdraws its support for the US fight against IS in Syria and northern Iraq.

In a message circulated via Twitter, Abu Sayyaf said it would kill one of the hostages unless its demands were met within 15 days, according to US-based company Site Intelligence Group, which tracks communications from radical Islamist groups.

The message calls on Germany to “stop supporting America in its killing of our Muslim brothers in Iraq and Syria, especially the mujahideen of IS."

The two German nationals were reported missing in April after their yacht was found empty in the Palawan province in the western Philippines.

In August, photographs depicting the couple in front of a German flag surrounded by masked fighters was released by Abu Sayyaf. 

The militant group originally demanded a ransom of 250 million pesos (US$5.6 million) to release the hostages.

COMMENT: Filipino police suspect the couple is being held hostage near the militants’ base on Jolo island in the Sulu province in the southern Philippines.

The German government on Wednesday (September 24) confirmed it was aware of the new threats and that it had set up an emergency taskforce within the Federal Foreign Office which was “continuing its efforts to achieve a release”.

It said its foreign policy toward IS would not be influenced by the incident. 

Founded in the early 1990s, the small, but active Abu Sayyaf group has been listed as a terrorist organisation since 1997. 

Abu Sayyaf rose to prominence after the kidnapping of a group of 21 foreigners in the dive resort of Sipadan in May 2000. Khair Mundos, a leading figure in the militant group, was arrested in June 2014.

The group previously had links to al-Qaeda, though analysts now say Abu Sayyaf operates autonomously. 

In June, Abu Sayyaf’s leader, Isnilon Hapilon, announced his group’s support for the Islamic State (IS) in a video circulated on the internet.

Germany is currently not directly involved in the military offensive against IS in northern Iraq, but has pledged logistical support and called for a “political strategy” against the militant group.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently ruled out Germany participating in US-led air strikes in Iraq. 

Yet, Germany has confirmed that it will provide logistical support for military operations in northern Iraq, including sending a squad of 40 paratroopers to train Kurdish fighters in the use of machine guns.

A shipment of arms--including 4,000 G3 rifles, 4,000 P1 pistols, 20 Milan anti-tank guns, 120 anti-tank rockets and 20 MG3 machine guns--was scheduled to depart Leipzig to Iraq on Wednesday (September 24).

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