Why do kidnappers make their victims barefoot?

Beheading in the Philippines : Deadly freedom of the sailor Jürgen Kantner

In the end, they forced him to scribble one last helpless message on a makeshift German flag: “My last hour. Jürgen Kantner ". He held her up to the camera, his eyes blank. He was placed in an excavated grave and presented in orange clothing like a Guantanamo prisoner. The ultimatum expired on Sunday, the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, which brought the 70-year-old sailor into their power in the Philippines in November of last year, beheaded their victim in the early afternoon.

Jürgen Kantner had always wanted to lead his life with the greatest possible freedom. Before the pressures of a bourgeois existence, he fled to the seas and into a vagabond life that took him far as a sailor. For a long time he earned his living with boat transfers, and bought and sold yachts. He had long since bought his own, the 16-meter-long Rockall steel slup. With her he finally wanted to leave for Asia, to paradise without seasons, where someone like him could live reasonably decently without financial means.

When he started the trip from France in 2007, he was accompanied by his partner Sabine Merz, who was ten years his junior. She has had a failed marriage and wants a fresh start. And so she sells her apartment and belongings, leaving her children and family behind. The Philippine police will find her body inside the Rockall in 2016 when the yacht is found drifting off the south coast of the archipelago.

Jürgen Kantner is kidnapped. For the sailor, the attack by the armed bandits must be a devastating moment. More hopeless because they are faced with the ruthless logic of terrorists for the second time. In 2008 Kantner and Merz fell into the hands of pirates off the Somali coast and had to wait 52 days as prisoners in the mountains of Puntland before the federal government bought them free. The ransom amount is said to have been one million euros at the time. Sabine Merz only had two silver earrings.

In Somalia, the military brought him Kalashnikovs for repairs

The Rockall had been the couple's entire possession. When Kantner learns that the remains of his yacht have been sighted in the port of Berbera, he sets off for Somaliland to repair the boat. He doesn't want to let himself get down, he ignores the danger. He spent six months repairing the Rockall in the blazing sun of Africa, and his mechanical skills and craftsmanship were soon in great demand there. The military protects him and brings him Kalashnikovs for repairs.

Finally, Sabine Merz follows, and together they set sail for the next stage in the summer of 2009. "Nobody can take us out a second time," Kantner told Tagesspiegel at the time.

The couple takes precautions to be able to defend themselves by force of arms in an emergency. The danger of being attacked again by pirates in the Horn of Africa was not over at that time. Kantner and Merz want to cross the Indian Ocean and only stop again in Malaysia. They don't have the money for stopovers in the Maldives or Sri Lanka. Seven years later they meet their murderers. The terrorists declare that Sabine Merz opened fire on them.

There are thousands of blue water sailors like these two. Dropouts who no longer feel comfortable in civilization with its rules and conventions and trust the seaworthiness of a boat. They live to the rhythm of the weather and repair what breaks on board. Soon their boats look ragged and shabby, but their barefoot crews always somehow get through.

But the world's oceans have not become safer since piracy was curbed off Somalia. Attacks and kidnappings are reported again and again, particularly from West African and Asian sea areas. The Philippines, which had been considered safe for years, saw an increase of one hundred percent to 11 reported attacks in 2015. It is not known whether Germans are specifically selected as victims. In a video message from February 14th, Jürgen Kantner asked the German embassy in Manila for help. The shaggy white hair and disheveled beard of the circumnavigator had become thin and transparent during the months of imprisonment.

The ransom demands from Abu Sayyaf amounted to 570000 euros, it is said. But the government of the authoritarian ruling President Duterte is apparently preparing a major offensive against the jungle warriors. It is said that she attacked Abu Sayyaf camp even before the end of the execution date. Kantner apparently got caught between the fronts. His last words were, "You are killing me now." Which they then did.

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