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AP/Mustafa Karali
Damaged buildings in Binnish, Syria in January 2013.

ISIL advertises Norwegian and Chinese hostages “for sale”

By Zheping Huang

ISIL claimed Wednesday (Sept. 9) that it is holding a Norwegian and a Chinese hostage, and demanded ransoms for their release.

The terror group listed the two prisoners as being “for sale” in the latest edition of its online magazine Dabiq. It identifies the Norwegian man as Ole Johan Grimsgaard-Ofstad, 48, from Oslo, and the Chinese man as Fan Jinghui, 50, a freelance consultant from Beijing.

ISIL posted pictures of the two men standing in yellow jumpsuits and looking into the camera with their purported occupation, place of birth, date of birth and home address. It also listed a telegram number asking for an unspecified amount of ransom for their “release and transfer.” The pictures didn’t say when or where the two were captured.

Dabiq

Messages under the pictures said each man was “abandoned by his government, which did not do its utmost to purchase his freedom.”

Norweigan Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed at a news conference in Oslo on Wednesday that one of the hostages was a Norwegian man in his 40s being held in Syria, and “everything indicates” that ISIL is responsible. The Prime Minister said the kidnappers have asked for specific amounts of ransom several times, but the government will not pay. “We neither can nor will give in to pressure from terrorists and criminals,” she said.

The man was captured at the end of January, according to the Prime Minster, and Norwegian authorities are working with various parties in several other countries to free the hostage, but “this is a very demanding case.”

China’s foreign ministry said (link in Chinese) on Thursday (Sept. 10) that Chinese authorities were still confirming the situation and they “firmly opposed any violent acts against innocent civilians.”

Grimsgaard-Ofstad’s Facebook page shows he was in Syria in January. “I finally made it,” he wrote on January 24 in his last update, sharing his location in Binnish, a northwestern town of Syria’s Idlib province, and said he was “going to Hama [of western-central Syria] tomorrow.” Both cities are the main arenas of the Syrian civil war.