Updated 05:21 AM PHT Tue, February 28, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed the Abu Sayyaf Group has beheaded German hostage Juergen Gustav Kantner.
"We have finally received information from reliable sources confirming that Mr. Juergen Gustav Kantner was mercilessly and inhumanly murdered by the evil [Kidnap-for-Ransom] Abu Sayyaf Group," AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement released Monday night.
Earlier that evening, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza also confirmed Kantner's beheading in Sulu.
Dureza acknowledged the efforts exerted by AFP to save the victim's life, which Arevalo recounted.
"Our operations in the past several days and nights using all our resources were unrelenting," Arevalo said. "We lost some of our best men in the process, because we value the life of Mr. Kantner and that of the others who have fallen prey to this terrorist group."
Both Arevalo and Dureza said they condemn the crime, which the AFP chief described as an "abominable act of ruthlessness, loathe, and greed."
Arevalo also said they will "commit to relentlessly pursue the ongoing all-out offensives to neutralize the perpetrators of this dastardly crime."
"There will be no let up in our operations until we have rescued all the remaining kidnap victims," he added.
Arevalo and Dureza also expressed their sympathies to Kantner's family, friends, and loved ones for their loss.
The AFP chief said their units will continue searching for the remains of Kantner to be handed to his bereaved family.
Speaking at the sidelines of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said ASG may have killed Kantner because he was sick.
Yasay said the Philippines sought technological aid from the country's allies to help recover the remaining hostages.
"We will undertake our operations to make sure we give a premium to saving the lives of the hostages," he said. "Our task has not been easy but we are prepared to crush them when the opportunity comes.
Earlier, there were reports saying that Kantner was beheaded by ASG on Sunday, but the AFP could not confirm.
Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said they received intelligence reports the German victim had been beheaded, although his body has yet to be recovered.
A graphic video also surfaced online showing a group of men, allegedly the ASG, beheading a man they claimed to be Kantner.
Kantner was abducted by Abu Sayyaf fighters in November 2016 along with his partner, Sabine Merz, while the couple was sailing on a yacht in Sabah.
Merz at the time reportedly tried to shoot their abductors. The Abu Sayyaf shot back and killed her.
The ASG had asked for a P30 million ransom, but due to the Philippine government's no-ransom policy, the ultimatum expired on Feb. 26.
It is still unconfirmed whether Kantner's beheading was because of the failure to meet the demand.