Philippines military recovers body of beheaded Abu Sayyaf German hostage in Sulu

The group is believed to still hold at least 19 foreigners and six Filipino hostages.

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The Philippine military said on Sunday that it had recovered the body of an elderly German hostage, who was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf group, a kidnap-for-ransom network in the southern Philippines, last week. Juerguen Kantner, who was kidnapped off Sulu forests last year, was killed by the Islamist militants after its demands for 30 million pesos (US$600,000) were not met.

Military officials said marines found Kantner's body on Saturday evening in the militants' remote island stronghold of Sulu, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Manila.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines continues with all efforts to make good (on) its commitment to return the remains of the kidnap victim to his homeland to accord to him the decent burial he deserves," military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo told AFP.

In 2016, Kantner was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants while he and his wife, Sabine Merz, were cruising through a dangerous area of the Philippines. According to reports, his wife was killed when she tried to fight back with a shotgun. On Nov 7, Kantner's vessel, the Rockall, was found drifting with the body of his female companion.

The authorities said Kantner's remains are in a military hospital morgue in Sulu as the officials are preparing documents to transport the body.

Last month, the militant group had released a new video, sent via the chat app Telegram, threatening to kill an elderly German hostage, if they are not paid the ransom. The militant group said it will execute the prisoner on February 26.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologised on Tuesday for failing to save Kantner. He said the military had stepped up operations against the Abu Sayyaf. In recent days, troops have clashed with the militants leaving 18 soldiers injured and 14 militants dead. However, the military has been unable to recover the dead bodies.

The Abu Sayyaf group, linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is an insurgent group known for kidnapping foreigners for ransom and has defied more than a decade of US-backed military offensives against it. In recent years, the group has conducted a lucrative kidnapping spree. They are believed to still hold at least 19 foreigners and six Filipino hostages.

The militants kidnapped another German couple off a yacht in the southern Philippines in 2014. Six months later, the duo was released after receiving what they said was the full ransom demand of US$5.1 million (S$7.1 million).