MANILA — Militants who specialize in kidnapping for ransom have reported killing a German sailor and abducting her elderly male companion from their yacht off the southern Philippines, the military said on Monday.
A commander from the Abu Sayyaf group, which has earned millions of dollars by kidnapping foreigners and killed others after ransom demands were not met, claimed responsibility for the latest incidents, regional military spokesman Filemon Tan said.
It appeared the victims were the same as those abducted by Somali pirates off the Gulf of Aden and held hostage for 52 days in 2008. The husband and wife were released at that time after a ransom was paid.
Tan said the military had recovered the couple’s yacht, named the Rockall, and the body of a naked white woman who had been shot was aboard.
He said the military had listened to an audio recording of a known Abu Sayyaf leader claiming responsibility for the raid on the yacht, and the abducted German man also spoke on the phone call.
The abducted man identified himself as Jurgen Kantner, aged 70, and his companion as Sabine, according to Tan. Tan said the passports of Kantner and Sabine Merz were found on the Rockall.
He said the photo in Merz’s passport appeared to match the body of the dead woman aboard, although her identity still needed to be confirmed.
In Berlin the German government said it had yet to verify the media reports.
“We are trying right now together with Filipino authorities to determine (what happened),” foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schafer told reporters.
“We have to see what the facts are, to see if what the media are saying is actually true.”
AFP interviewed Kantner in 2009 about being kidnapped along with Merz, identified then as his wife, by Somali pirates. He was subjected to a mock execution during the ordeal.
Speaking from Somalia where he had returned to retrieve their boat, Kantner said the threat of another kidnapping would not stop him from sailing. “My boat is my life and I don’t want to lose her, nothing more. I don’t care about pirates and governments,” Kantner said from Berbera. — AFP