Suspected Muslim militants have posted a video purportedly showing for the first time two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino who were abducted from a southern Philippine resort last month, and demanded that government forces stop their artillery attacks.
Army Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado said Wednesday that authorities were trying to verify the authenticity of the video, adding the military would reject any demands from the militants.
The video was circulated online and by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites. It shows the hostages sitting in a grassy clearing with a dozen mostly masked gunmen standing behind them. Two black flags hang in the backdrop of lush foliage.
The three foreign hostages, apparently speaking under duress, urged the Canadian and Philippine governments to stop the military assaults, particularly artillery fire, which one captive said had hit close to them. One of the hostages, who identified himself as John Ridsdel, spoke as a long-haired militant held his head and aimed a machete on him.
“We beseech the Canadian government to please, please help us and the Philippine government ... by stopping all of the operations that have been going on, like artillery fire which came near us,” Ridsdel said.
One of the masked gunmen read a statement, saying they would negotiate with the Canadian and Philippine governments and would issue their demands once the military assaults stopped. The gunmen then erupted in yells of “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.”
Arrojado, who has been leading months of offensives against Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province about 590 miles south of Manila, said the assaults would not stop.
“Our mandate is to go after the enemies of the state,” Arrojado told the Associated Press by telephone.
The kidnappers did not identify themselves, but Philippine authorities suspect Abu Sayyaf militants are behind the abductions because they have a history of kidnappings and such video postings. They usually seek large ransoms from governments and relatives of their hostages.
Ridsdel and fellow Canadian Robert Hall; a Norwegian man, Kjartan Sekkingstad; and a Filipino woman, Tess Flor, were abducted last month by gunmen from a marina on Samal Island, also in the southern Philippines.
The video was the first indication of what happened to them and that they were still alive.
Following the kidnappings, Philippine authorities vowed to strengthen security in the south. But three weeks later, gunmen abducted a former Italian Catholic missionary from his pizza restaurant in southern Zamboanga Sibugay province.
The abductions highlight the long-running security problems that have hounded the southern Philippines, a region with bountiful resources but also suffering from poverty, lawlessness and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies.