• Kyodo

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Philippine authorities on Sunday maintained their policy of not paying ransom for the release of hostages, on the eve of a deadline set by a local bandit group that has been holding three people, including two foreigners, hostage for months.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military will sustain its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to try to free the hostages.

“Our focused military operations continue without let-up. We will not stop until we find these criminals and rescue the hostages,” Padilla said. “As their world gets smaller, we will eventually find them and hold them accountable for all their crimes.”

The Abu Sayyaf, a relatively small but violent jihadi group operating in the southern Philippines, has threatened to behead one of the three remaining hostages if a ransom of 300 million pesos (about $6.5 million) for each of them is not paid by Monday.

In September, the group kidnapped four people — Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor — from a posh resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte.

Ridsdel was beheaded in April after the Philippine and Canadian governments refused to pay ransom money.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the military is strictly abiding by the no-ransom policy to prevent the militant group from making money through kidnapping.

Tan added that the military also discourages the families of hostages from paying ransom because doing so would enable the Abu Sayyaf to engage in the “lucrative business” of earning money by kidnapping people.

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