Philippines, Palawan, Rio Tubbataha: German couple abducted from yacht – April 2014

Reports about this abduction which occurred in April 2014 are mixed, however, the main facts as we have interpreted them are outlined below.

Published 9 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Two German nationals who went missing off Palawan last month were confirmed to be held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province, according to a state college professor. Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Sulu said his informants confirmed the report that the German nationals were being held by the bandits.

Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and his female companion, Herike Diesen, 55, were forcibly taken from their yacht at Rio Tubbataha, an hour’s ride from Puerto Princesa in Palawan. MV Catherine, the yacht the Germans used, was found in waters off Bataraza, Palawan, on April 26, 2014.

They were on their way back to Sabah in Malaysia after island-hopping in Mindanao.

The ASG bandits allegedly used a speedboat owned by another ASG leader, Idang Susukan, in snatching the German nationals.

Dinampo said the Germans were not tourists but long-time residents of Palawan. He said according to his informants, the two are now with ASG leader Radulan Sahiron.

Dinampo said the two were initially brought to the ASG stronghold in Sitio Sangay, Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul and were later transported to Barangay Kabbon Takas, also in Patikul.

”They were brought to the mountains where there is a safe house, away from the military,” Dinampo said.

Dinampo said the two Germans were made to join European birdwatchers, Elwold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra. The two birdwatchers were abducted by the bandit group in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi on January 31, 2012.

The bandit group was also allegedly behind the abduction of another Chinese national from a resort in Sabah, Malaysia.

Update 18 October 2014

Philippine militants free 2 kidnapped Germans

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  1. September 5, 2018 at 2:27 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    Just some final comments and clarifications to this case, as it shows nicely how a determined terrorist group works.

    It may also help us cruisers to determine, how large our security buffer around areas should be, that are affected by this kind of terrorist groups.

    The information conveyed here is from an interview with the hostages after their return to Germany.

    1. The couple was not sailing, they have anchored alone in a bay when the assault happened.
    2. Once controlled, the hostages have hauled about 270 NM towards Jolo. Jolo has enough Abu Sayaf infrastructure to support a lengthy hostage/prison operation.
    3. The terrorist’s boat is described as a powerboat having been “raced across the water for 30 hours”. Given the distance, the boat would have made only 9 knots. This part seems to remain a bit uncertain. But I guess it doesn’t make much of a difference.

    Just for the record: The female crew is called Henrike Dielen, not Herike Diesen.

  2. September 5, 2018 at 2:26 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    18 October 2014 – Philippine militants free 2 kidnapped Germans

  3. September 5, 2018 at 2:25 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    From the Philstar, here is the latest comment of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin:

    MANILA, Philippines – The government will not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf, which has threatened to behead one of the two German hostages it is holding, saying it was a criminal gang seeking to cash in on its self-proclaimed allegiance to Islamic State jihadists.

    “We do not negotiate with terrorists,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters when asked about the P250-million ransom demand.

    The SITE terrorism monitoring group said Tuesday the Abu Sayyaf warned it would carry out its threat within 15 days unless a ransom is paid and Berlin halts support for the US-led campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

    Germany also insisted it would not withdraw support for US action against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria despite the ultimatum.

    Gazmin confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a German man and woman at sea earlier this year as they sailed a yacht off Palawan……….. The Abu Sayyaf is holding at least 10 foreigners, including two European birdwatchers, kidnapped in February 2012.

    Published image of the captives:

    J.-P. Beer

  4. September 5, 2018 at 2:23 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    Further news from the BBC 24, September 2014 – Philippine militants threaten to kill German hostages –

  5. September 5, 2018 at 2:21 AM
    Data Entry2 says:
  6. September 5, 2018 at 2:17 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    4 June 2014 – further information received from Puerto Princesa:
    1) Apparently it’s a sailboat, not a MV.
    2) The boat was open.
    3) Passports, wallets, laptops, etc. were all there.
    4) The swim ladder was down. Towels were found on deck.
    5) Apparently, this area (Batanza) is known for saltwater crocs

  7. September 5, 2018 at 2:15 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    Further feedback from a cruiser who has lived in the Philippines for 3 years:
    I went this morning to the PNP Philippines National Police which is doing the investigation. What I can say is as follows:

    1. The location is in Bataraza province. This is the end south province of Palawan, not Tubbataha reef as I was led to think as other yachties spoke about. The PNP talked about Bataraza which is between Rio Tuba and Brooke’s Point. This is on the way from Malaysia (Sabah) to Puerto Princesa.

    2. The exact location is not clear to me because Batazza is the name of the province as well as a little village!

    3. The yacht has been found by fishermen who saw no sign of life! The yacht was open but no sign of theft! A wallet with about 600US$ in PHP has been found! 150€ and another 400US$ was found! No sign of any theft!

    4. As of today, no ransom has been claimed and the PNP investigation team has no evidence of kidnapping/piracy so far!

    5. I will go back to PNP in one month to follow-up.

    After living for 3 years in this region I have doubt! I could better imagine that they saw something they should not have seen! i.e. dynamite fishing (I saw this in this area) and they complained or black market traffic with Malaysia – and have been killed!?!

    this region is very very poor! fish disappeared! so fisherman turns themselves to activities like smuggling fuel, cigarette, alcohol from Sabah to the Philippines!

  8. September 5, 2018 at 2:12 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    The German couple who were abducted had been cruising through the Palawan area on and off for several years (their yacht is “Catherine”). They were abducted in an area between Rio Tuba and Balabac Island from the passage between Palawan and Balabac Islands.

  9. September 5, 2018 at 2:08 AM
    Data Entry2 says:

    This report is somewhat confused, as there is Tabbataha reef in the Sulu Sea and Tuba River on Palawan. Can anyone verify which place is meant by this, I am assuming the reef.