NORWEGIAN national Kjartan Sekkingstad, in captivity for nearly a year in remote jungles in the country’s far southern island of Sulu, was released Saturday by his captors the extremist Abu Sayyaf, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza has confirmed.
Dureza said in a statement the bearded Sekkingstad, released at around 2 p.m. in far-flung Patikul town, a known lair of the bandit group in Sulu, was the last of four hostages taken from a luxury resort on Samal Island on Sept. 21, 2015.
The Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf had earlier beheaded Canadian nationals Robert Hall and John Ridsdel while Filipina Marites Flor was released last June.
Supporters of Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Nur Misuari and former Sulu Governor Sakur Tan helped secure the Norwegian’s release, Dureza said in a statement.
Sekkingstad will stay in Misuari’s place in Kagay village overnight, Dureza said.
The Norwegian was supposed to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City Saturday evening but bad weather forced the cancellation of his flight out of Jolo.
“Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad was released by his captors earlier today Saturday at around 2 p.m. somewhere in Patikul, Sulu,” Dureza had said.
“I will fly him out of Jolo town tomorrow morning,” he added.
Dureza had echoed the Norwegian’s first words of gratitude to Duterte, soon after his walk to freedom from his ordeal, short of four days to a year, capped by months of quiet but zealous efforts with the assistance of all sectors.
“When I spoke to him on the phone, he said ‘Thank you to President Duterte,’” Dureza said.
His release from captivity capped months of quiet, patient but determined efforts with the assistance of all sectors, Dureza added.
There were no additional details on the release from the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command.
But Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesperson of the Command, said Sekkingstad would eventually be brought to the provincial capitol in Jolo.
Tan said in a statement the Norwegian’s release was “an offshoot” of the military’s intensified offensive, with the assistance of the MNLF against the Abu Sayyaf.
“Simultaneous land, air, naval and police operations complemented each other putting pressure on the ASG,” he said.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said ransom had been paid for the release of the Norwegian hostage.
An intelligence report seen by some journalists suggested Sekkingstad was set free after ASG received an estimated P30-million ransom.
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