Abu Sayyaf frees Norwegian hostage

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Kjartan Sekkingstad (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Abu Sayyaf released Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad on Saturday, Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan Jr. confirmed.

Sekkingstad was freed at 4 p.m. Saturday, Tan said via a text message to CNN Philippines.

In a statement, Tan said the release of Sikkengstad was an offshoot of the ongoing military operations to sustain pressure against the Abu Sayyaf Group and the assistance of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

"Simultaneous land, air, naval, and police operations complemented each other putting pressure on the ASG," Tan said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said in a statement that the Abu Sayyaf Group was constrained to release Sekkingstad as holding him hostage slows down their movement.

Sekkingstad was supposed to be presented to President Duterte at the Davao Airport on Saturday night, but it will not push through due to bad weather.

Sekkingstad was abducted from a resort on Samal Island in September 2015, along with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Filipina Tess Flor.


The terrorist group beheaded Ridsdel and Hall after no ransom was paid to spare their lives.

Flor was released June 24, less than a week before Rodrigo Duterte officially assumed presidency. He presented Flor to the public during a police turn over ceremony in Davao.

In July, the AFP dismissed reports that Sekkingstad was also beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf, and said rescue operations were still being conducted.

Duterte earlier said a group of negotiators whom he did not identify was working for Sekkingstad's release.

Related: Norwegian envoy thanks Duterte for negotiating captive’s release

Sekkingstad thanks Duterte

In a press statement Saturday, Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Sekkingstad was released by his captors somewhere in Patikul, Sulu.

He said the Norwegian hostage's first words to him on the phone were, "Thank you to President Duterte." 

Dureza said Sekkingstad's release was a result of "months of quiet, patient, but determined efforts with the assistance of all sectors."

Dureza said Sekkingstad is staying overnight at the home of MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, who volunteered to host his stay because of the heavy rains.

"Men of Misuari, former Governor Sakur Tan, and other volunteers helped in the release," he said. "I will fly him out of Jolo town tomorrow morning."