Authorities in the southern Philippines have arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant, who acted as a ransom negotiator and was involved in the abductions of two Canadians who were executed by the Islamic extremist group in 2016, police said Monday.
The national police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) backed by police commandos, marines, and intelligence agents, arrested Adzrimar Sali Ammat on Friday after raiding his safehouse in Zamboanga City, officials said. The house was located within two kilometers of a military base.
Ammat, 30, who is also known as Abu Omar or Guru Adin, was involved in the 2015 kidnappings of Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, as well as Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor, police said. The latter two were freed after a year in captivity.
“Ammat alias Abu Omar was tagged as the negotiator of the Abu Sayyaf group that seized the four captives, including three foreigners and a Filipina in 2015,” AKG chief Brig. Gen. Rudolph Dimas said in a statement.
He did not say why it took police three days to publicize the suspect’s arrest.
On Monday, officials at the Canadian Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a BenarNews request for comment.
The Abu Sayyaf, or “Bearers of the Sword,” a militant group based in the southern Philippines, is blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including bombings of military camps. Founded by an Afghan-trained militant in the 1990s, the group later branched out to raising funds through kidnapping when its leader was killed.
Police said that two other kidnap victims, who were not named by them, positively identified Ammat as a negotiator. It was not clear whether they were held together with the two Canadians.
The regional police office in Zamboanga said Ammat had two standing warrants of arrests, one issued by a Davao Court for two counts of kidnapping with homicide on Sept. 29, 2016, and kidnapping with ransom issued by another court on Sept. 2, 2019.
The two Canadians, the Norwegian and the Filipina were abducted in September 2015 from the Holiday Oceanview Resort on the island of Samal in Davao del Norte, and were later taken to the jungles of Jolo Island – the stronghold of Abu Sayyaf in the far south – police said.
Ridsdel was beheaded in April 2016 and Hall was beheaded two months later. In June 2016, Flor, Hall’s girlfriend, was also freed and recounted the cruelty of Abu Sayyaf militants.
“We were treated like dogs. If we made mistakes, we were beaten,” Flor told reporters then, shortly after the militants freed her. President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered negotiators to get her and the remaining hostage alive.
Flor was freed three months earlier than Sekkingstad, the Norwegian. The national police then said that a ransom of 30 million pesos (about $600,000) was paid for his release, although they never revealed who was the source of that money.
In hostage situations, the Philippines government officially has a policy of not negotiating for ransom.