Philippines: Norwegian hostage freed by Abu Sayyaf to meet Duterte

Major Filemon Tan, local military spokesman says the Norwegian hostage was taken to a military camp for medical check-up and debriefing.

The Norwegian hostage, who was freed by the Abu Sayyaf group in Philippines on Saturday, was on his way to a jungle army camp for debriefing before a meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, officials said on Sunday.

Kjartan Sekkingstad was abducted along with three other people, including two Canadians and one Filipino from Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September 2015.

Last April, the bandits killed a Canadian hostage, John Ridsdel, as the ransom deadline lapsed and later they executed another Canadian hostage, who was identified as Robert Hall. In June, the militants freed Maritess Flor, the Filipino hostage after receiving 20 million pesos as ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf group handed Sekkingstad over to a Moro National Liberation Front commander in Sulu province. Moro National Liberation Front is a group which is engaged in peace talks with the government and Sekkingstad spent the night at their camp.

Major Filemon Tan, local military spokesman, said that the Norwegian hostage was en route on Sunday to a military camp to undergo a medical checkup and debriefing.

"He is en route to joint task force Sulu," Major Tan told AFP.

Chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza said after completing the debriefing session, Sekkingstad would then be flown on to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in the southern city of Davao.

Maj Tan said he was not aware of any money transaction in lieu of Sekkingstad's freedom.

"Our policy is a no-ransom policy. Whatever ransom payment takes place outside of the military, we do not know of it," Maj Tan said.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said 50 million pesos were paid as a ransom to the group.

However, the local media quoted a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf saying the group received 30 million pesos (S$855, 400) for the captive.

The Philippine and Norwegian governments could not immediately be reached for any comment regarding this issue.

The Abu Sayyaf group has been responsible for a series of abductions and has developed a reputation of ruthless kidnappers in recent times. Reports say it is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

The group is based in remote Muslim-populated southern islands of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

The group is blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippines and the United States has it as a terrorist organization. Since August, the group has been the target of a military operation.