Freed Norwegian handed over to Philippines envoy

The Norwegian man held for a year by Islamic militants in the Philippines was handed over to a government envoy on Sunday, along with three Indonesian seamen.

Freed Norwegian handed over to Philippines envoy
Kjartan Sekkingstad may soon be reunited with his dogs. Photo: Private / NTB scanpix
Kjartan Sekkingstad and the  Indonesians, who had been held by Abu Sayyaf militants, were handed over to envoy Jesus Dureza in the town of Indanan on Jolo island, said an AFP reporter at the scene.
The transfer took place at the heavily guarded camp of another Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari, whose group assisted in the release according to the government.
Sekkingstad was abducted from a high-end tourist resort which he managed in September 2015, along with two Canadians who were later beheaded. It was still unclear if the three freed Indonesians were the same ones kidnapped by armed men off a fishing trawler in Malaysian waters in July.
The Abu Sayyaf freed Sekkingstad on Saturday, handing him over to Misuari who is engaged in peace talks with the government and at whose camp he spent the night, Dureza said earlier.
Escorted by a small contingent of Jolo police, Dureza, Misuari, the freed captives and local officials met in a building surrounded by hundreds of Misuari's fighters from the Moro National Liberation Front before leaving for a military camp, the reporter said.
The military has said that after a medical check-up and debriefing, Sekkingstad would fly to the southern city of Davao to be received by President Rodrigo Duterte.
John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, the two Canadians seized with Sekkingstad, were beheaded after a ransom demand of about 300 million pesos ($6.5 million) was not met.
Duterte's spokesman Martin Andanar said in Manila that “the government maintains the no-ransom policy”.
“Now, if there is a third party like his family that paid, we do not known anything about that,” he told reporters.
Norwegian foreign affairs communications chief Frode Andersen told AFP by phone that “the Norwegian government does not pay ransom in this case or any other case”.
However a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf was quoted in a local newspaper on Sunday as saying the group received 30 million pesos (about $625,000) for the Norwegian.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. It is based in remote Muslim-populated southern islands in the mainly
Catholic Philippines, and has earned millions of dollars in ransom from kidnappings — often targeting foreigners.
While its leaders have in recent years pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, analysts say the Abu Sayyaf is mainly focused on a lucrative kidnapping business rather than religious ideology.
The group, which is blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and is listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation, has been the target of a military operation since August.
For members


Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Tuesday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Child’s body washed ashore identified 

The body of a 15-month old boy who washed ashore near Karmøy in southwest Norway has been identified as that of a child named Artin, who died alongside his relatives while attempting to cross the Channel from France into the United Kingdom. 

Artin’s body was found on New Year’s Day more than two months after the vessel carrying the rest of his family sank. The boat was carrying around 20 refugees in total. 

“We didn’t have a missing baby reported in Norway, and no family had contacted the police,” Camilla Tjelle Waage, the head of police investigations, told BBC News.  

Artin had a relative in Norway that allowed forensic scientists at Oslo University Hospital to match the DNA profiles of him and the relative to confirm his identity. 

“This has been a painstaking process, but we are pleased we have now received confirmation that this is the missing boy who was found on Karmøy. This story is tragic, but then it is at least good to give his surviving relatives an answer,” Waage said in a statement. 

READ ALSO: Body found in Oslo flat nine years after death 

His remaining family have been notified, and his remains are to be flown back to Iran to be buried. 

Six out of seven Norwegian dog breeds facing extinction 

Only one of Norway’s seven native dog breeds is not threatened with extinction. The other six are facing extinction, despite ten years of efforts to try and revive the breeds. 

The only Norwegian dog breed not in danger of disappearing is the Grey Norwegian Elkhound. 

“We are the country of origin of these dogs, and we have a special responsibility to the UN to preserve these dogs,” Odd Vangen, professor of livestock breeding and genetics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), told state broadcaster NRK.

The dog breeds endangered are the Hygen Hound, Norwegian Bunhund, Black Norwegian Elkhound, Norwegian Dunker, Norwegian Puffin Hound and the Halden Hound. 

According to Vangen, these dogs are facing extinction because they are working dogs and not bred for companionship. Many of the breeds are bred for hunting, but populations are dwindling due to a lack of hunters and hunting areas. 

NIPH ditches test concerts 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has dropped its proposed test concert scheme after Oslo City Council said it would not host any events. 

“It is not worth carrying the concerts out if the only place we can host them in Bergen. The project is dead and buried,” Atle Fretheim, project manager for the scheme, told paper Bergens Tidende

The government had initially given the test concerts the go-ahead at the end of May to research whether rapid testing of the public could reduce the risk of infection. 

249 Covid-19 cases in Norway 

On Monday, 249 new coronavirus cases were recorded in Norway, a decrease of 36 compared to the seven day average of 286. 

In Oslo, 66 new cases of infection were registered, 19 fewer infections than the seven-day average. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 1.0. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another ten people, indicating that the infection level is stable. 

Total number of Covid-19 cases so far. Source: NIPH