Suspected Muslim militants have posted a video purportedly showing for the first time two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman who were abducted last month from a southern Philippine resort, and demanded that government forces stop its 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 jihadi websites. It shows the glum-looking hostages sitting in a grassy clearing with a dozen mostly masked gunmen standing behind them. Two black flags associated with the Islamic State group 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 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 province, a predominantly Muslim province about 950 kilometers (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 posting such videos. They usual seek large ransoms from governments and relatives of their hostages.
Ridsdel and another Canadian, Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipino woman identified as Tess Flor, were abducted last month by gunmen from a marina on Samal Island, also in the south.
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 country's south, a region with bountiful resources, but also suffering from poverty, lawlessness and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies.