Norwegian kidnap victim freed after a year

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /17 Sept) – The Norwegian national kidnapped with two Canadian nationals and a Filipina on September 21 last year from a resort he managed in the Island Garden City of Samal was freed in Patikul, Sulu at around 2 p.m. Saturday, September 17, four days short of one year since their abduction.

In a statement from Jolo, Sulu, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Kjartan Sekkingstad “is now staying overnight at the place of MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) Chairman Nur Misuari in Barangay Kagay who volunteered to host his stay due to heavy rains and nightfall.”

Dureza said “men of Misuari and former Governor Sakur Tan and other volunteers helped in the release.”

He also said Sekkingstad’s first words to him on the phone was “Thank you to President Duterte.”

Dureza said Sekkingstad’s release from captivity capped months of quiet, patient but determined efforts with the assistance of all sectors.”

“I will fly him out of Jolo town tomorrow morning,” Dureza added.

Sekkingstad was supposed to have been flown to Davao City and presented to President Rodrigo Duterte at 6:30 p.m. at the Mindanao Development Authority office at the old airport terminal in Sasa, according to an advisory from the Media Accreditation and Relations Office of the Presidential Communications Office sent at 5:57 p.m. At 6:21 p.m. however, another advisory said the presentation was cancelled.

“Regrets. Due to inclement weather in Sulu, scenario in Mindanao Development Authority tonight is cancelled. Till further notice,” the advisory read.

Samal 4

Armed men on board two pumpboats stormed the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak district in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte at around 11:30 p.m. on September 21, 2015 and abducted at gunpoint four persons – Sekkingstad, 56, Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68 and Robert Hall, 50, and Hall’s Filipina partner, Marites Flor, 38.

Ridsdel was President of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc., a firm providing mineral mining services, with main office in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao.

Ridsdel was executed by the Abu Sayyaf on April 25 and Robert Hall, Flor’s fiancé, on June 13 for non-payment of P300 million ransom.

Flor was dropped off by her captors in front of the residence of former Sulu Governor Sakur Tan at around 4:30 a.m. on June 24 and was presented to then President-electDuterte onstage at the Davao City Police Office parade grounds nearly 12 hours later, after the turnover of command from chief of police, Sr. Supt. Vicente Danao, Jr. to Sr. Supt. Michael John Dubria.

Dureza quoted then Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan as saying Flor’s release was a “gesture of goodwill” on the part of the Abu Sayyaf. “They knew that President–elect Rody wanted badly the release of these hostages,” he said.

The terrorist group has kidnapped hundreds of persons, including foreigners, in the last two decades.

Duterte last month ordered the military and police to seek out the Abu Sayyaf and destroy them, the fifth Philippine President to attempt to do so.

The President issued the search and destroy order hours after the terrorist group was reported to have beheaded 18-year old Patrick James Almodovar, son of a court stenographer, for failing to pay a million peso ransom.

Duterte initially thought it was the Norwegian victim, Sekkingstad, who was beheaded because if he were, “I would accuse now the Abu Sayyaf of in utter bad faith. Binayaran na yan sila” (They were already paid), he said, citing the figure P50,000 but later corrected to P50 million pesos. Who paid the amount, he did not say.

Dureza told MindaNews Saturday night that no ransom was paid for the release of Sekkingstad. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)