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Kidnapped sisters finally freed

/ 05:23 AM February 22, 2014

Nadjoua Bansil (left) and sister Linda (right). AP FILE PHOTO

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Their experience at being kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf would  never deter them from what they believe in: Stand up for marginalized people.

Nadjoua Bansil and her younger sister Linda were recovered by authorities in Patikul, Sulu, on Thursday after eight months in captivity.

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But despite the ordeal, the sisters said they would only “rest for a while” before going back to work again. Both have lost weight and looked frail.

Mohammed Medmessiah, their elder brother, said judging from how thin they had become, his sisters probably lost about 40 to 50 percent of their former weight.

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He said he would bring the two to Manila where their mother is waiting.

Several hours after they walked out of captivity, the siblings said their experience would not stop them from helping the poor.

Plight of poor

As workers for Amnesty International, Nadjoua and her sister will continue to produce films to make the world know about the plight of poor people in Sulu and other parts of the country.

Nadjoua, then aged 39 and her sister, then aged 36, were seized by members of the Abu Sayyaf group on June 22 while working on a film about the impoverished residents of Jolo.

Philippine Marines found them before nightfall on Thursday in Buhanginan village in the mountainous town of Patikul, clad in black Muslim dresses that exposed only their eyes. One of the women was fondly cradling a cat, Marine Capt. Ryan Lacuesta said.

In an interview with the Inquirer here, the siblings said they raised the cat they named Julia while in captivity.

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“Julia stayed with us through and we are bringing her home,” Linda said.  But it wasn’t clear how they acquired the cat.

Kept in isolation

“They said that their captors often kept them in isolation in the mountain, and the cat gave them company and pleasure,” Lacuesta told The Associated Press by telephone from Jolo.

Brig. Gen. Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said a special contingent made up of Marines  finally got hold of the Bansil sisters around 5:43 p.m. on Thursday.

The sisters were taken to a military trauma center in Jolo for medical checkup, given their first meal and then flown to Zamboanga City, where they were briefly presented to journalists and reunited with their brother.

Mohammed said he did not know if ransom had been paid.

The Abu Sayyaf had demanded a P50-million ransom in exchange for the sisters’ freedom.

But Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command,  said the release of the Bansil sisters was the “product of a long-drawn  effort of the government in trying to address kidnapping in Sulu.”

 

Taken at gunpoint

Nadjoua and Linda, who were behind the 2013 Gawad Urian-nominated short  film “Bohe, Sons of the Waves,” were riding a passenger jeepney on their way back to Jolo town when flagged down and taken at gunpoint by at least 10 armed men in the village  of Liang in Patikul.

The women said that their captors moved them often from one jungle encampment to another to avoid being tracked by government forces. They were fed rice, dried fish and root crops and often were detained in a hut.

Authorities tagged an Abu Sayyaf faction headed by Aljini Mundoc, also known as Ninok Sapari, and Bensaudi Mundoc, as the suspect.

The sisters were born in Algeria to an Algerian mother and a Filipino father but grew up in the Philippines, where they have produced independent films in recent years.

They studied Mass Communication at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

Sheron Dayoc, the director of the independent film “Halaw-Ways of the Sea,” said the sisters were active members of the Amnesty International when they were still in college.  With reports from AP, AFP

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TAGS: Abu Sayyaf, Joint Task Force Sulu, Kidnapping, Linda Bansil, Nadjoua Bansil, Patikul
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