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Philippine kidnappers seek $2m for Australian
Hostage held by suspected Muslim separatists says his captors want a ransom as he pleads for his life in a video.
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2012 09:06
 Rodwell is seen pleading for his life in a video that has been sent to his Filipina wife [Fairfax Media]

An Australian kidnapped by suspected Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines says in a video pleading for his life that his captors are demanding $2m in ransom.

A distressed-looking Warren Rodwell, 53, who was seized from his home in Ipil, a town on Basilan island, on December 5, urged authorities to do all they can to secure his freedom. Rodwell is originally from the Australian city of Sydney.

"To my family, please do whatever to raise the two million US dollars they are asking for my release as soon as possible," Rodwell says in the video obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and released on Thursday.

"To the Australian embassy here in the Philippines, this is your constituent appealing for his life, his safety. Please help facilitate.

"I was former army of my country but it's different here, particularly the terrain. The only solution to ensure my safety is to go with whatever they need. If I'm given my last wish, my last wish is to please help me out of here alive, please madam ambassador."

Rodwell's broadcast lasts less than two minutes.

The Australian newspaper said the video was sent by the kidnappers to Rodwell's Filipina wife, Miraflor Gutang, shortly before Christmas.

The Australian government said it was working closely with authorities in the Philippines but ruled out paying a ransom.

"There's been a policy, a bipartisan policy, of not paying ransoms for many, many years," Brendan O'Connor, the Australian human services minister, said.

"Our focus at the moment is really ensuring that we do everything we can to have Mr Rodwell released. That should be our focus, that is our focus and the embassy's doing everything it possibly can to ensure that that happens."

Snatched from home

The Sydney Morning Herald said it had four photos of Rodwell that show him with a wound on his right hand while his left hand is in handcuffs.

It said they were taken on December 12, but his condition since then is unknown.

Major-General Noel Coballes, the local Philippine forces commander in Ipil, said on Wednesday that Rodwell tried to fight back and was hurt when he was snatched from his home, which he shared with Gutang.

He said it was possible Rodwell was being held by the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim group founded in the 1990s with seed money from al-Qaeda.

The group has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and has been known to kidnap foreigners and Christians for ransom.

Numerous Muslim armed groups operate in the southern Philippines, spawned by a Muslim separatist movement that has raged for decades.

The Australian government has set up a task force to negotiate for Rodwell while the Philippine government's anti-kidnapping unit was also trying to contact the group holding him.

Source:
Agencies
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