Australian's kidnappers send photos

Posted at 01/04/12 11:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Gunmen from a suspected Islamist militant group holding an Australian hostage on a southern island in the Philippines have sent photographs of the man to his family and demanded an unspecified ransom, the Philippine military said on Wednesday.

Warren Richard Rodwell, a retired Australian soldier, has been missing since he was taken at gunpoint from his house in Ipil town on the restive island of Mindanao a month ago.

The photographs were the first proof that he was still alive, Army Major General Noel Coballes said. Police found bloodstains at the scene when he was taken, pointing to a struggle.

Coballes, commander of the Zamboanga region, said it was believed Abu Sayyaf, an al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group, was holding Rodwell.

"Recently, the kidnappers sent pictures, proof of life, for the Australian," Coballes told reporters in Manila. He said the pictures had been sent to Rodwell's Filipina wife through a courier service three days before Christmas.

The pictures, on a computer memory card, showed Rodwell with a wound on his right hand, Coballes said. Security officials refused to release copies of the pictures.

"Our information was correct that he was wounded in the hand when he tried to resist his captors," Coballes said.

Officials also did not say how much the group had demanded for Rodwell's release. "I cannot recall the amount, but it was in millions of pesos," he said.

Coballes said Australian authorities were also working to secure his release.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in the southern islands of the Philippines, where Islamist militants, rebels and bandits operate. The United States, Australia and other Western nations have issued travel bans for such areas.