Islamist militants in Philippines release 2 kidnapped Germans

Two Germans held hostage for over six months by al Qaeda linked Islamist militants in the Philippines have been released.

Berlin: Two Germans held hostage for over six months by al Qaeda linked Islamist militants in the Philippines have been released.

Stefan Viktor Okonek and his partner Henrike Dielen were captured by Abu Sayyaf militants in western Philippine in April. They were released shortly before a deadline set by the al Qaeda linked group for the payment of a ransom of USD 5.6 million expired yesterday.

The group had also demanded Germany to cease its support for the US-led air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria and threatened to kill one of them on Friday afternoon if its demands were not met.

The German foreign ministry said yesterday it was relieved to confirm that Okonek, 72, and Dielen, 55, are no longer in the hands of their kidnappers.

They are now in the care of the German embassy staff in Manila, the foreign ministry spokesperson said.

The ministry thanked the government of Philippines for its cooperation in securing the release of the two hostages, who were captured from their yacht off the Palawan island last April and held in captivity on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines.

Germany had earlier rejected the demands of the Abu Sayyaf group and emphasised that it will stick to its present strategy in the fight against IS and will not allow itself to be blackmailed by a terrorist organisation.

Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Rami said in a radio interview yesterday that his group received the ransom in full, and the two hostages were released, but did not say who paid it.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had sent a special envoy to Manila to try and secure the release of the two hostages.