Military: Germans abducted by Filipino extremists

 

Associated Press

Two German tourists who have been missing for three months had been abducted by Abu Sayyaf militants and were being held "unharmed" by the al-Qaida-linked gunmen in the jungle in the southern Philippines, security officials said Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the military's Western Mindanao Command, said the government has ordered troops to locate the Germans in Sulu province and ensure their safe recovery but he declined to say what the military intends to do.

"The latest is that they're unharmed," Guerrero told The Associated Press.

German officials have declined to comment on the reported abductions.

Stefan Okonek and his female companion, Henrike Dielen, were taken at gunpoint from a yacht between Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo Island and the western Philippine province of Palawan in April and then taken by boat to predominantly Muslim Sulu, about 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila, where the Abu Sayyaf has held other hostages, four military and police officials separately told The AP.

A police general said the Germans were seen once by some villagers while washing up in a mountain stream, guarded by the militants.

Philippine police officials have obtained a picture of a Caucasian man and woman squatting and holding onto a German flag while being surrounded by heavily armed men with covered faces. The gunmen in camouflage stand in front of a black flag often used by Abu Sayyaf militants and thick foliage.

Authorities are trying to verify if the Caucasians in the picture, a copy of which was seen by The AP, are the Germans.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

The German foreign ministry formed a crisis team and is in touch with Philippine authorities. It refused to provide more details in line with a policy of not discussing kidnapping cases.

The Abu Sayyaf, Guerrero said, is currently holding about 10 hostages in Sulu's jungles, including the Germans and two European birdwatchers who were kidnapped two years ago.

The militants have been using the birdwatchers as "human shields" from relentless government offensives, he said.

The kidnappings are a reminder of the threats still posed by the Abu Sayyaf despite more than a decade of U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives that has crippled the militants. Their ransom kidnappings have alarmed nearby countries like Malaysia.

In 2000, Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched 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 large ransom payments.

Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • 100 candidates vie for Iraq presidency in sign system is out of control

    Iraq’s parliament will meet Wednesday to elect a new president, a crucial step toward naming a new prime minister and government, but questions are growing about whether anyone can save the country after the collapse of its army and the loss of as much as half its territory to the radical Islamic State.

  • Physician detained for defaming Ecuador president

    Authorities in Ecuador say prominent physician Carlos Figueroa has been detained near Quito and sent to prison to serve a six-month sentence for defaming President Rafael Correa.

  • Qatar, Saudi rulers meet for Gaza cease-fire talks

    For the first time since an unprecedented diplomatic rift among Gulf powerhouses, Qatar's emir flew to Saudi Arabia late Tuesday in a surprise visit and met with King Abdullah to discuss cease-fire efforts that have yet to bring an end to 15 days of war in the Gaza Strip.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category