Philippines army recovers body of beheaded German hostage

Militant group Abu Sayyaf, which had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, executed German kidnap victim Jurgen Kantner after $600,000 ransom was not paid

The body of German hostage Jurgen Kantner (pictured) was found by the Philippines army
The body of German hostage Jurgen Kantner (pictured) was found by the Philippines army

The body of an elderly German hostage who was beheaded by Islamic militants this week has been recovered, military officials said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom network in the southern Philippines that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, killed Jurgen Kantner, 70, after its demands for $600,000 in ransom were not met.

Military officials said marines found Kantner’s body on Saturday evening in the group’s remote island stronghold of Sulu, more than 1,000km south of Manila. The body will be returned to Germany, officials said.

“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,” said military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

Kantner’s vessel, the Rockall, was found drifting on 7 November off the southern Philippines with the body of his female companion, Sabine Merz, who had been shot. The Abu Sayyaf claimed the kidnapping.

Last month, a video was posted showing the beheading of Mr Kantner by a knife-wielding man shortly after a deadline for a 30m peso ($600,000) ransom expired.

The German foreign ministry said in a statement that it was "deeply shocked by the inhuman and gruesome act".

Kantner’s remains are in a military hospital morgue in Sulu while officials are preparing documents to transport the body, authorities said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte earlier apologised to Germany and Mr Kantner's family for failing to rescue him during nearly four months of captivity but insisted that ransoms should not be paid.

Troops have clashed with the Abu Sayyaf in recent days, leaving 18 soldiers injured and 14 militants dead, according to the military which has been unable to recover their bodies. 

The group, formed from seed money provided by a relative of the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, have been kidnapping foreigners and locals for decades and holding them for ransom. Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest and most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines, known for its brutality, including beheadings.

They are believed to still hold at least 19 foreigners and six Filipino hostages.

Blamed for the nation’s worst terrorist attacks, the Abu Sayyaf has used the support of local communities, millions of dollars in ransom and collusion with corrupt local officials to defy decades of military operations.