Freed hostage recounts boyfriend's beheading by Philippine militants

Filipina hears kidnappers laugh during beheadings.

Released Filipino hostage Marites Flor on Sulu island, southern Philippines, 24 June 2016. Ben Hajan / European Photopress Agency
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MANILA // A Filipina hostage released by southern Philippine militants on Friday broke down in tears as she recounted how her Canadian boyfriend had been beheaded a week earlier.

Marites Flor was abducted in September by Abu Sayyaf militants, along with three others. Two of them — her partner Robert Hall and his fellow Canadian John Ridsel — were killed. Ms Flor said the kidnappers led Hall away to be beheaded after a ransom deadline lapsed last week. Ridsdel was killed in April.

“It was painful to see them so happy before they did the beheading. They just put handcuffs on him and took him out,” she said.

The four were seized in September aboard yachts at a tourist resort on Samal island, about 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the west of Sulu, known as a hideout of the militants.

On Friday, Ms Flor was dropped off at dawn outside the house of a local politician on Sulu, said provincial police chief Wilfredo Cayat.

Incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he and his aides were “able to negotiate” for her release.

Duterte says he is currently trying to secure the release of the fourth hostage, Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad.

Ms Flor was released the same day Jakarta banned vessels flying Indonesian flags from sailing to the Philippines following the kidnapping of seven Indonesian sailors at sea off the southern Philippines, in waters where Abu Sayyaf is known to operate.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred Islamic militants formed in the 1990s as an offshoot of a Muslim insurgency group which was active in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. The group received funding from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda networ and have since earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom. Kidnapping is now said to be more important to them than their Islamic affiliation.

The ban on shipping could severely disrupt a major flow of goods from Southeast Asia’s largest economy — including natural resources like coal — to the Philippines. The defence ministers of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed this week to consider coordinated steps including possible joint patrols to tackle a wave of maritime crime in the Sulu and Celebes seas, which together form a key waterway among the three countries.

* Agence France Presse