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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Former hostage glad to be back home

Kjartan Sekkingstad, the man from Norway’s west coast who was seized by a guerrilla group in the Philippines last year, landed back in Oslo on Friday following his release last weekend. Sekkingstad said he’d been through “a year in terror.”

The 57-year-old former hostage, who already has profusely thanked officials in the Philippines for helping to secure his release, told reporters during a press conference at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen that he now mostly just wants to look ahead.

‘Terrible time’
He also told more stories about “a terrible time,” as he and fellow hostages were constantly moved from one camp in the Philippines jungle to another. “There was a lot of walking,” he said, “sometimes all night long” and sometimes for 24 hours at a time. He repeated how they received little food, just some rice with soy sauce and a bit of sugar on it, sometimes salted fish or noodles. Mostly just cooked rice.

The hostages were chained together with handcuffs every evening, and were forced to sleep on the ground on a “little tarp.” He said the hostages became a tightly knit unit “and we took good care of one another.”

There were upturns and downturns, he said, as the hostages were told “lots of wrong information, lies and fantasy. Once they told us we’d travel home for Christmas, but that was just nonsense.” Another time they “went for a whole day thinking we would be exchanged (for other prisoners held by the Philippines authorities), but there was nothing to it.”

There was an improvement just before presidential power shifted in the Philippines. “The food got better and we were told to remain patient. And (last) Saturday, after a week and a half of waiting, they said I would be set free the next day.”

Now needs ‘some peace and quiet’
He said he was escorted through the forest, where they were met by other military groups. He was later flown to Davao and met President Rodrigo Duterte before being turned over to the Norwegian embassy in Manila. He claimed he knew none of the details of the terms of his release, or ransom money paid.

“I thank everyone who has helped, my family, the public officials, and again ask for understanding that I need some peace and quiet,” Sekkingstad told reporters. “I need time with my family to put this behind me.”

Norwegian foreign ministry officials told state broadcaster NRK that Sekkingstad was not sent alone on the flight from Manila back to Oslo, and that he has a support apparatus around him. He’s been through medical examinations and debriefings by authorities in the Philippines. After spending time with his family in Norway, he said he still wants to return to the Philippines, where he had been living for several years. staff



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