The Philippine army has rejected demands from Islamic extremist militants who called for negotiations for the release of four hostages, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing an official. The militants, who allegedly kidnapped two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman about a month ago, posted a video on Twitter Sunday showing the hostages pleading to the Philippine government to stop military operations in Jolo, a remote southern island in the country.
Col. Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Philippine military, said Wednesday, according to the New York Times, that the video looked authentic. “A technical team is validating it,” Padilla reportedly announced on Twitter, adding: “No group has been identified with finality, and none have claimed responsibility.”
In the video, the hostages are surrounded by masked, heavily armed militants with banners showing a black-and-white colored flag. The Reuters report added that there was speculation that the hostages had been taken hundreds of miles west to Jolo, which is considered a stronghold for the Abu Sayyaf group that is linked to ISIS and has previously conducted bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in the country.
"There is no negotiation that can be made with any of those who are perpetrating this crime," Padilla said Wednesday at a news conference in Manila, according to Reuters, adding: "We cannot, as of the matter, discuss operational details, but we can assure you the safety of the hostages is always foremost in our minds."
Gen. Alan Arrojado, the army commander of Jolo, also reportedly said that the country will not stop its operations against Abu Sayyaf because there was no evidence to show the hostages were in that area. "It may be a mock up scenario, it could be taken elsewhere and made it appear to be on Jolo to stop our operations," Arrojado said, according to Reuters, adding: "There will be no let up in our operations."
Padilla also said, according to CNN, that the authorities have seen the video and are currently evaluating it. “As of now our current (military) posture is still the same," he said, adding: "[Our] posture remains, where our troops are, where our police are, they will remain to be where they are."
He reportedly added that the kidnappers have not yet made any monetary demands and that the Filipino government is "doing everything and coordinating with all agencies concerned locally and outside the country."
Rune Bjastad, communications adviser and press contact for Norway’s minister of foreign affairs, told CNN that the country was aware of the video and that it was working with Filipino authorities. The Norwegian media has also identified one of the hostages shown in the video as Kjartan Sekkingstad.
In the video, the two Canadian hostages identified themselves as Robert Hall and John Ridsdel and claimed they were abducted from Oceanview Marina in Samal Island in the southern Filipino region of Davao. The Canadian government told Reuters it was "pursuing all appropriate channels" to get more information about the kidnapping.
The video can be seen here: