USD 11m ransom paid for tourists’ release
10 December 2003
MANILA – Germany and Libya paid a total of USD 11 million to Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels to secure the release of a group of Western hostages held in the southern Philippines in 2000, the government’s chief negotiator in the crisis said Wednesday.
Roberto Aventajado said the German government paid USD 1 million for the release of German hostage Renate Wallert, while Libya paid USD 10 million for the other Western captives, including Wallert’s husband and son.
The Wallert family was among the 21 people seized by the Abu Sayyaf from Malaysia’s Sipadan island diving resort in April 2000. The hostages were held in the southern Philippine island of Jolo for about six months before they were released in batches.
“The Germans paid a million dollars for Renate Wallert,” he said in his book to be released Friday, excerpts of which were published by the Today newspaper on Wednesday.
“The Germans paid nothing for the release of her husband and son and other white hostages from Sipadan plus one French journalist,” he added. “They were released on payment of the 10 million dollars supplied by the Libyans.”
Aventajado, who has since returned to private life after former president Joseph Estrada was ousted in January 2001, said the Philippines “advanced” the payment for Renate Wallert, violating its strict no-ransom policy.
A German embassy official, who requested anonymity, said the mission has not read Aventajado’s book and declined to confirm or deny if the government paid ransom.
“We will not comment on that,” he said.
Libyan Ambassador Salem Adam also refused to comment on Aventajado’s claim.
“I was not part of the negotiations,” he said shortly after arriving in Manila from the southern city of Davao. “I have no comment.”
Libya was tapped by the Philippines to help resolve the crisis since it previously helped in peace talks with former Moslem rebels.
It was also providing development aid to various Moslem communities in the southern region of Mindanao, and some of its officials personally know some Abu Sayyaf leaders.
Aventajado’s revelation was made after the capture of Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, alias Commander Robot, one of the planners of the Sipadan kidnapping.
Andang was captured on Sunday during a firefight on Jolo’s Indanan town. He was being treated in Manila for the wounds he suffered in the gunbattle and his left leg was amputated late Tuesday.
The Abu Sayyaf has in the past claimed that government and military officials received a cut of the ransom paid for the release of the hostages, and authorities hope that Andang could provide information about the controversy.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Wednesday Andang could also provide the government vital information which could further boost the government’s efforts to fight terrorism and flush out other Abu Sayyaf leaders.
“I am sure that he will be a good source of information on the remaining cells of the Abu Sayyaf and their alliances with foreign groups,” she said.
Arroyo said the police and the military have already been on alert against possible retaliatory attacks by Abu Sayyaf rebels and their allies.
The Abu Sayyaf is the smallest but most violent Moslem rebel group in the southern Philippines. The United States has included the group on its blacklist of foreign terrorist organization over alleged links to the al-Qaeda.
Subject: German news