Freed hostage says Philippine jungle captivity was ‘devastating’

Norwegian man was kidnapped year ago along with two Canadians who were beheaded

Norwegian former hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad after he was freed in Sulu, in southern Philippines. Photograph: Nickie Butlangan/Reuters

Norwegian former hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad after he was freed in Sulu, in southern Philippines. Photograph: Nickie Butlangan/Reuters

 

A Norwegian man freed by militants after a year of jungle captivity in the southern Philippines has described the ordeal as “devastating”.

Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed by his Abu Sayyaf captors to rebels from the larger Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has signed a peace deal with the Philippine government and helped negotiate his release.

On Sunday, he was handed over to Philippine authorities, along with three Indonesian fishermen freed separately by Abu Sayyaf.

When freed Mr Sekkingstad was carrying a backpack with a bullet hole as a reminder of a near-death experience that included the beheadings of the two Canadians kidnapped with him.

The Norwegian said he survived more than a dozen clashes between Philippine forces and his captors in the lush jungles of Sulu province.

In one intense battle, in which the forces opened fire from assault helicopters and from the ground, he said he felt a thud in his back and thought he was hit by gunfire.

After the fighting eased, he discovered he was not hit and that his green, army-style backpack had been pierced by the gunfire instead.

Mr Sekkingstad, heavily-bearded and clad in a rebel camouflage uniform and muddy combat boots, was asked how he would describe his horrific experience. “Devastating, devastating,” he said.

Philippine presidential adviser Jesus Dureza, who received Mr Sekkingstad and the three freed Indonesians from MNLF rebel chief Nur Misuari in Mr Misuari’s rural stronghold near Sulu’s Indanan town, accompanied the Norwegian on a flight to the southern city of Davao, where the ex-hostage was to meet President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ransom deadlines

John Ridsdel

Abu Sayyaf demanded a huge ransom for the release of the foreigners and released videos in which they threatened them. Mr Ridsdel was beheaded in April and Mr Hall was decapitated in June after ransom deadlines lapsed. Ms Flor was freed in June. – (AP)