German sailor kidnapped, wife killed by Abu Sayyaf militants in Philippines

Philippine Navy personnel board the yacht "Rockall" after it was found abandoned in the Sulu Sea in southern Philippines over the weekend. Photo: AP
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World sailor Jurgen Kantner declared after being kidnapped and held captive by Somalian pirates in 2008 that he loved his 30-foot yacht “Rockall” and “I don’t care about pirates or governments“.

Late on Sunday the Philippine military found the yacht drifting off Laparan island, 1000 kilometres south of the capital Manila, in waters near island strongholds of the ruthless kidnap-for-ransom gang Abu Sayyaf.

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The naked white body of a woman believed to be that of Mr Kantner’s wife Sabine Merz was sprawled on deck, shot through the head.

And for the second time in his life Mr Kantner, 70, was being held captive with kidnappers demanding a multi-million dollar ransom.

The attack on the yacht came only days after the United States warned that terrorist groups were planning kidnappings on central Philippine islands popular with Australian tourists, indicating that the Abu Sayyaf is now roaming more widely from its bases in the far southern Philippine islands of Jolo and Basilan.

Mr Kantner, a German national, has lived at sea for more than 40 years.

“I love the life of the boat – you are free. You can stay at a port and if you don’t like your neighbour you can just move on,” he was quoted as saying in 2009, after a ransom was paid for his release from Somali pirates who held him and Ms Merz captive in a mountain cave for 58 days.

But questions will be asked as to why Mr Kantner was sailing his battered yacht through the intimidating waters of the southern Philippines where for years the Abu Sayyaf group has been kidnapping Westerners, Malaysians and Indonesians, and reaping millions of dollars in ransoms.

The group is known for beheading hostages if ransoms are not paid, including two Canadians last year.

Formed with the backing of al-Qaeda in the 1990s, Abu Sayyaf has increased its kidnappings in recent weeks as the Philippine military has launched a new offensive against it on the orders of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. The holding of hostages complicates the military operations.

The Philippine military has released a photo of the Rockall and said it was flying a German flag.

A shotgun was found beside the naked woman’s body.

The Philippine military is verifying a claim by Abu Sayyaf militants that they have kidnapped a German man from the ...
The Philippine military is verifying a claim by Abu Sayyaf militants that they have kidnapped a German man from the yacht and shot and killed his female companion. Photo: AP
The Philippine military is verifying a claim by Abu Sayyaf militants that they have kidnapped a German man from the yacht and shot and killed his female companion. Photo: AP

The Philippine Daily Inquirerquoted an Abu Sayyaf spokesman as saying “She tried to shoot us, so we shot her”.

The passports of both Mr Kantner and Ms Merz were found on board.

An Abu Sayyaf commander has claimed responsibility for the murder and kidnapping.

Mr Kantner was dubbed the “mad German sailor” in the Somali port of Berbera in 2009 after he returned to the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to retrieve his yacht.

“They think that I’m insane, they call me the crazy white guy or the mad German sailor but they don’t know how important the boat is to me,” he told reporters at the time.

He described his Somali kidnapping as “my worst experience”, one day telling his kidnappers “I hope a plane will bomb us all to bits and then we all die together”.

“Why should I go back to Germany where I have nobody to help me? This is my life and its wonderful,” he said.

“I have all my things on my boat and I travel to many places in the world. Sailing is how I want to live and die.”

Report shared by The Brisbane Times

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