Military still verifying status of other foreign hostages with Abu Sayyaf
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The military said it had no information yet on the status of other hostages that the Abu Sayyaf has been holding in Sulu as hostilities continued there Sunday.
“We are verifying if the other hostages were able to escape but the operation is continuous so we will keep you updated,” Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Mindanao Command based here, said.
Guerrero did not say who the other hostages were but escaped hostage, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, had said he was with fellow bird watcher Ewold Horn when the military struck in Patikul on Saturday morning.
Vinciguerra, a 49-year old Swiss birdwatcher, said he and Horn had actually planned to escape together during the military strike but the latter was too sick and weak to move.
He later told military officials in Sulu that he had tried carrying Horn on his back but Horn had refused.
“Horn said you go first, I can no longer walk,” Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu quoted Vinciguerra as saying.
Arrojado said Vinciguerra was concerned about what the Abu Sayyaf might do to Horn.
Guerrero said the military was trying to rescue the other hostages that the Abu Sayyaf was holding in Sulu.
“This is actually the very basic intent of the operation, it is to rescue them,” he said, without providing additional details on who the hostages – aside from Horn – were.
But in an interview following the release of German hostages Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dieter in October, Guerrero said Abu Sayyaf factions in Sulu were also holding Malaysian Marine police Kons Zakiah Aleip, who was taken from Sabah in July and Chan Sai Chuin, 32, a Chinese national who was also kidnapped in Sabah last June 26.
There were also several Filipino hostages “being held separately by different sub groups,” he said.
The police’s Anti Kidnapping Group (AKG) last month said aside from the European birders, the Abu Sayyaf has also been holding Toshio Ito, a Japanese treasure hunter abducted on July 16, 2010; Chinese national Dina Lim, 42, and her daughter Yahong Tan Lim (both Chinese nationals) – who were kidnapped in Isabela City in Basilan last May 22; and Chinese Malaysians Wai Tung and Jie Tung, who were taken on November 14, 2012 from Lahad Datu in Sabah.
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