2 Indonesians rescued from Abu Sayyaf
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Two Indonesians kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf 10 months ago walked free on Thursday after a clash between the military and the bandits in Jolo province and were recovered by government troops.
Saparudin bin Koni, 43, a boat skipper, and his deputy, Sawal bin Maryam, 36, were on a public utility vehicle when spotted by soldiers at a checkpoint in Barangay Bunot in Indanan, Jolo, early Thursday, said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Sulu.
The sailors were kidnapped aboard a Malaysian-registered vessel on Nov. 19 last year in waters off Sabah and taken to Jolo, a stronghold in southern Philippines of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group notorious for kidnappings and beheadings of foreign hostages.
5 bandits killed
The circumstances of their escape were not immediately clear, but Sobejana said that just before their recovery, troops clashed with 20 Abu Sayyaf bandits in nearby Talipao town, leaving five bandits dead and five soldiers wounded.
The Indonesians turned up at the Indanan checkpoint and were recognized by troops, he said.
“Our soldiers spotted them at a checkpoint where they were on board a public utility vehicle,” Sobejana said.
“It appears they were able to flee their captors after the encounter that occurred 30 minutes prior to that,” he said, adding the Indonesians were unharmed but showing the effects of poor nutrition.
“They were about to leave the area when our troops intercepted them,” he said.
He said soldiers at the checkpoint recognized the two Indonesians from pictures released by the military earlier.
“When our troops started questioning them, they could not speak English or local dialects like Tagalog or Tausug. [They speak] Bahasa only,” Sobejana said.
Going home soon
Saparudin and Sawal were taken to the military camp in Busbus, Jolo, where they were to undergo debriefing after a medical examination.
“They are OK. So far, they look OK,” Sobejana said.
He added that the two would soon be turned over to Indonesian authorities.
The Abu Sayyaf bandits still hold 15 hostages, all but two of them foreigners, Sobejana said.
One Vietnamese sailor was rescued last month after nine months in captivity.
The Abu Sayyaf is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made, but Sobejana said he was unaware of any ransom being paid for the two Indonesians.
Elderly German yachtsman Jürgen Kantner was beheaded in February after the kidnappers’ demand for P30 million was not met.
The kidnappers had murdered his female partner and compatriot during his kidnapping at sea four months earlier.
Last year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages.
Siege of Marawi
The Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose group of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnappings. —WITH REPORTS FROM THE WIRES
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