Philippine Kidnappers Demand $2 Million Ransom for Australian

Posted January 5th, 2012 at 3:00 am (UTC-5)
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An Australian man kidnapped by a suspected militant Islamist group in the Philippines has appeared in a video saying his captors demand a $2 million ransom for his release.

The video posted Thursday on the website of the Sydney Morning Herald shows a pale and distraught-looking Warren Richard Rodwell asking for the Philippine and Australian governments to raise the funds “as soon as possible.” The paper says the video was sent to Rodwell's wife in late December.

The former 53-year-old Australian soldier and university professor was kidnapped from his home in the southern Philippine city of Ipil on December 5. Police found bloodstains at the scene, indicating a possible struggle. On Wednesday, Philippine military officials said his wife had received photographs showing Rodwell with a wound on his right hand.

The Australian government says it has set up a task force and is working closely with Philippine authorities on the matter. Human Services Minister Brendan O'Connor says the Australian government is doing what it can to negotiating for Rodwell's release.

“The Australian government has a policy of not providing ransoms, but we are at this point working with the local authorities – our embassy is working with those authorities in Manila – and we will be working hard to ensure that Mr. Rodwell is released.”

Philippine officials believe the al-Qaida-linked Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf is behind the kidnapping.

Abu Sayyaf is responsible for a series of recent abductions in the restive southern region of the Philippines, where Muslim rebels have been fighting government forces for self-rule since the 1970s.