As year ends, fate of Abu Sayyaf’s 23 hostages still uncertain
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The fate of the 23 remaining hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf remains uncertain as the year was about to end in less than three weeks from today.
The military on Tuesday said all the hostages—18 foreigners and five Filipinos—are being kept in Sulu, where the military has been conducting operations against the bandit group.
Major Felimon Tan Jr., the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, said security forces were trying their best to rescue the hostages, including seven Malaysians, six Vietnamese, two Indonesians, a Korean, a German and a Dutch.
A nine-year old Filipino was among the locals who the Abu Sayyaf has been holding to, Tan said.
“Our troops on the ground are relentless in pursuing them (Abu Sayyaf),” he said.
Tan said the military operation was so relentless that troops will not be enjoying their Christmas holiday.
Similar operations are also being conducted in Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf also operates; and in Lanao del Sur, where the local terror group – the Maute group – maintains a presence.
“The operation continues because we cannot lower our guards,” he said.
Muammar Askali, the self-proclaimed Abu Sayyaf spokesperson in Sulu, said his group had divided the hostages into smaller groups.
He said for example, the six Vietnamese – who were abducted at high seas on November 11, were now under the custody Alhabsy Misaya.
He said German Juergen Kantner remains with his group. Kantner was taken early November in the waters off Tawi-Tawi. His wife, Sabine Merz, was shot dead as she resisted the kidnapping.
Askali did not provide information on the other hostages.
The Abu Sayyaf has been demanding millions of pesos for the freedom of its hostages. It was known to release ransomed hostages but also killed several victims in the past because of non-payment of ransom.
The latest to be released were Indonesians Mohammad Nazir and Rubin Peter, who were formally received by Pak Wiba, the Indonesian Embassy’s Protocol Officer, here on Tuesday.
Wiba said the Indonesian government was “very thankful” to the “government of the Philippines, especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the governor of Sulu and also other related institutions, which made possible the release” of the two Indonesian captives.
The two freed victims were among seven Indonesians the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped off Sulu on June 22 this year. Their five companions were released after week in captivity.
General Jose Cabanban, the deputy commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the two captives were healthy and had no signs of abuse.
“It seems they were kept in a good place, they didn’t have scratches. I think they were fed well because there was no indication they were hungry,” Cabanban said. TVJ
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