The Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, known as a terrorist organization in the Philippines, has confirmed it was behind the kidnapping of four hostages including a Norwegian man from a resort on the Philippines island of Samal last month. On Tuesday, the group published a photo of the hostages, who also include two Canadian men and a woman from the Philippines.
The 56-year-old Kjartan Sekkingstad was working at the resort’s yacht club when he, the Candians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Hall’s Filipina partner Marites Flor were kidnapped on September 22.
Local authorities launched a major investigation and have made some arrests but it remained unclear whether the kidnapping was a criminal attempt to obtain ransom, part of a terrorist attack or both. Now Abu Sayyaf has published photos of the hostages on an Islamic Twitter account along with text saying a video of the four would follow shortly. State broadcaster NRK also reported that Abu Sayyaf has claimed it is a sworn ally of the Middle Eastern terror organization IS.
Norway’s foreign ministry acknowledged it was aware of the photos but wouldn’t comment on them or say whether any ransom demands had been made. “We are working continually on this case,” spokesman Rune Bjåstad told state broadcaster NRK, adding that the ministry has “ongoing dialogue” with authorities both in the Philippines and Canada. “Our main forcus is to work to ensure the hostages’ health and lives,” Bjåstad told NRK.