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Abducted Australian pleads for life

A NEW proof-of-life video shows Sydney adventurer Warren Rodwell looking gaunt and making a desperate plea for a ransom to save his life after more than four months in captivity in the Philippines.

Ron Masling, an Australian acquaintance of Mr Rodwell who obtained the video, says the kidnappers have set a four-week deadline to be paid or they will behead him.

"They [the kidnappers] have given one month more before he is finished," Mr Masling told The Sunday Age by telephone from the Philippines, where he has been living for several years.

However, Australian officials are angry that a Filipino man linked to Mr Masling contacted the kidnappers and obtained the four-minute video during which Mr Rodwell is seen holding a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper dated March 26.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.

Mr Masling, 57, of Canberra, is attempting to sell the video to the Australian media for thousands of dollars, saying his efforts to help Mr Rodwell have used up all his pension money.


Grave fears are held for Mr Rodwell, who was abducted on December 5 from his fortified home in the seaside town of Ipil on troubled Mindanao Island by four gunmen posing as police. Philippine authorities say that since the video was made Mr Rodwell has become frail and weak as he has been constantly moved between remote hideouts of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, which has now dropped its original ransom demand from $2 million to $460,000.

Both the Australian and Philippine governments have policies not to pay ransoms.

In the video, the second sent by the kidnappers, Mr Rodwell pleads for his family, the Australian Prime Minister and Australians to raise the money.

Philippine security forces have moved a massive hunt for the kidnappers to the island of Basilan, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold, after intelligence reports indicated he was taken back there in recent days after being held for weeks in hideouts on the nearby Zamboanga Peninsula.

Philippine troops have had several firefights with Abu Sayyaf terrorists this year despite efforts to negotiate Mr Rodwell's release.

Zamboanga Sibugay governor Rommel Jalosjos said the kidnappers were now demanding 20 million pesos ($A460,000) for the release of Mr Rodwell, whose 27-year-old Filipina wife Miraflor Gutang says she does not have the money to pay.

Mr Jalosjos declined to say if he was in contact with the kidnappers.

Mr Masling, who has been unable to sell the video to the media, claimed Australian authorities had done little to help Mr Rodwell.

However, it is known Australian officials have been supporting efforts to secure Mr Rodwell's release.

Mr Masling claimed that Australian officials in Manila had told him his life was in danger and that he should leave the Philippines immediately. But he said he was not leaving. "Where I grew up you don't leave your mates behind."