From the Philippine Star (Aug 12): Military verifying 'proof of life' of ASG-held Germans in Sulu
Police and military intelligence officials are verifying what could be a “proof of life” picture of two German nationals held by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu.
The picture was posted on the internet and was discovered by authorities, officials said.
Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), believes that the intelligence community has a copy of the picture that shows German nationals Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek, 74, and Henrite Dielen, 42, seated and holding a German flag with about 10 masked gunmen believed to be Abu Sayyaf members in an unknown location.
Muyuela said government troops have been pursuing the Abu Sayyaf group to rescue hostages, including the two German nationals who were initially declared missing after sailing aboard their yacht near Rio Tubataha off Palawan toward Sabah last April.
Muyuela declined to give further comment or details, saying that any operational information leak might pre-empt the safety of the victims and the military's pursuit.
“We can only say in general that efforts have been ongoing to recover the victims,” Muyuela said.
Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, Sulu provincial police director, also confirmed the presence of the two German hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf group in the province and a tracking operation is underway to locate the victims.
“Intelligence operatives are working to locate the victims,” Orbita said. He did not elaborate.
The presence of the two captive Germans was initially confirmed by Octavio Dinampo, aprofessor at Mindanao State University (MSU) and an active peace advocate in Sulu, sometime in May following tips by informants on the ground detailing how the victims were brought to the province.
Dinampo, also a former kidnap victim of the Abu Sayyaf, disclosed earlier that the two German captives arrived in the coastal village of Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul town with their captors led by Jihad Susukan alias Iddang last Arpil 14 and brought to the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron.
He said the two captives then joined the group of other captives, including two European bird watchers - Dutch Elwold Horn, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinceguerra, and a Malaysian maritime police officer.