Military verifying proof of life for Samal hostages
Jaime Laude (Associated Press) - October 14, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is evaluating a video clip released by the kidnappers of three foreigners and a Filipina taken from a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte last month.

AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said they could not release any official statement regarding the video.

“We beg the indulgence of the public and our friends in the media that as of now we cannot divulge operational details and discuss way ahead recommendations that may put in jeopardy the lives of kidnap victims as well as the others on the ground,” Padilla said.

He said the military’s utmost concern at the moment is the safety of the hostages, while maintaining the policy of the government against negotiating with terrorists.

The video posted online showed hooded gunmen and the three foreign hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkngstad – calling on the government to stop military operations.

The same video, however, did not show the lone Filipino hostage, Hall’s girlfriend Maritess Flor.

In the video clip, each of the three victims introduced themselves as they appealed to their respective governments for help while calling for an immediate halt to all military ground operations and bombings so as not to compromise their safety.

The spokesman for the group, with a black ISIS flag in the background, aired the same demand for the military to halt all combat operations to allow negotiations.

“As of now our current posture is still the same and that is as far as I can go,” Padilla said, referring to the kidnappers’ demand to halt operations.

Padilla also said the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) cannot comment on the matter until such time that the video has been fully evaluated.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said the police could not yet determine the identities of the abductors.

“The PNP is mandated to enforce the law and based on this mandate we will pursue to arrest the perpetuator and the safe rescue of the victims,” he added.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping but the video uploaded on YouTube on Monday appeared to confirm it was the Abu Sayyaf, which has a long history of kidnappings in Mindanao.

However, the military and the police are reluctant to point to the Abu Sayyaf as responsible for the kidnapping in Samal.

Authorities said the search for hostages will continue.

Army Capt. Antonio Bulao, spokesman for Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), said there is no directive from them to halt operations.

“The mandate is clear when the Joint Task Group Sulu was activated that pursuit operations will be relentless against the Abu Sayyaf,” Bulao said.

Bulao said they were also assessing and validating the video to determine the location of the hostages and their captors.

He doubted the Abu Sayyaf was holding the foreigners hostage.

“There is no distinctive background to say the video was taken in Sulu or any other area and besides, why are they covering their faces, which is unlike the Abu Sayyaf group,” he said. – With Roel Pareño, Cecille Suerte Felipe

ABU SAYYAF ACIRC ANTONIO BULAO ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ARMY CAPT BULAO CANADIANS JOHN RIDSDEL AND ROBERT HALL AND NORWEGIAN KJARTAN SEKKNGSTAD CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE JOINT TASK GROUP SULU PADILLA VIDEO
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