Philippine militants free 2 kidnapped Germans

Stefan Okonek, Henrike Dielen

Stefan Okonek, Henrike Dielen.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Two Germans freed after being held for six months in the southern Philippines by a militant group that threatened to behead one of them if ransom was not paid were flown to Manila on Saturday under the care of their embassy, a Philippine military spokesman said.

Following their release Friday, Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen were flown to Manila under arrangements made by the German Embassy, said Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan. The two have not spoken publicly about their ordeal and German diplomats could not be reached for comment.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin confirmed their released late Friday, just hours after the Abu Sayyaf militant group had threatened to behead Okonek.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami told radio station DXRZ in southern Zamboanga City that his group received 250 million pesos ($5.6 million) in ransom. He did not say who paid it.

Gazmin said he was “not privy” to information about any ransom payment, though other Philippine officials confirmed that ransom had been paid.

“We’re happy they’re safe. I hope there will be no more (kidnappings),” Gazmin told The Associated Press by phone.

The German Foreign Ministry thanked the Philippine government for its “close and trustful cooperation,” but did not give details on how the release came about.

Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, said officials were still trying to piece together details of the release. He said there was “no change in the ‘no ransom’ policy of the government.”

“With the release from captivity of the two German nationals, our security forces will continue efforts to stem the tide of criminality perpetrated by bandit elements,” Coloma said in a statement.

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