A Dutch man held in the Philippines by fighters linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has been killed during a firefight between his kidnappers and soldiers, military sources and Dutch officials said.
Ewold Horn, 59, had been held since 2012 by the Abu Sayyaf group and was fatally wounded by his captors on Friday as he tried to escape from a gun battle between members of the organisation and army troops on the southwestern island of Jolo in Sulu province, military commander brigadier general Divino Pabayo Jr said.
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The Dutch foreign ministry, meanwhile, confirmed Horn died in an “exchange of fire”, adding that it was investigating the exact circumstances of his death.
At least six Abu Sayyaf fighters were also killed and 12 others wounded in the nearly two-hour firefight, including one of the wives of group commander Radulan Sahiron, the military said. Sahiron has long been wanted by the United States and the Philippines for banditry and assaults.
Eight soldiers were also wounded, the military added.
Horn and a Swiss tourist, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, along with Filipino guide Ivan Sarenas were kidnapped by gunmen during a birdwatching trip in the Philippines’ southernmost province of Tawi Tawi, near Sulu, in 2012.
Sarenas escaped by jumping into the sea while they were being taken by motorboat to Jolo shortly after they were abducted. Vinciguerra escaped two years later.
The military said it had recovered Horn’s body, while Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the Netherlands had informed his family of the incident.
“I am shocked by this terrible outcome,” Blok said.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte condemned Horn’s killing and sent condolences to his family.
“We vow to pursue his killers to the ends of the earth until they are brought to justice,” the president’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said in a statement.
Abu Sayyaf is a small but violent group in the Muslim south of the largely Catholic Philippines that has been active since the early 1990s.
It has been known to commit extortion, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings, and has pledged allegiance to the ISIL group operating in Iraq and Syria. It earlier pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda group.
Philippine officials blame the group for the deadly January bombing of a Catholic cathedral on Jolo island during Sunday mass that killed more than 20 people and marked the worst attack to hit the archipelago in years.
The bombing was claimed by ISIL, which has worked to maintain a presence in the Philippines as its caliphate crumbled in the Middle East.