Senior MNLF official denies 3 foreigners rescued
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2013 - 1:53pm

ZAMBOANGA City, Philippines - A senior official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Thursday denied reports that its fighters have rescued three foreign nationals being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu provinces.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, member of the MNLF central committee and chairman of the Islamic Command Council (ICC), also denied that the Moro group has a spokesperson named Emmanuel Fontanilla.

In an interview with radio dzMM on Wednesday, Fontanilla claimed that MNLF fighters who clashed with ASG members in the jungles of Patikul have rescued two Swiss nationals and a Dutch national.

Fontanilla also claimed that 23 ASG members have been killed in the fighting and six more bandits are in the MNLF's custody.

“Hopefully it is true, but there is no such report of rescued foreign captives by the MNLF forces under Ustadz Habier Malik,” Hashim said.

Persistent information from the police and military disclosed that five foreigners are being held by the ASG in Sulu, including Europeans Elwold Horn from Holland and Lorenzo Vinceguerre of Switzerland, Australian Warren Richard Rodwell, Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani, and Japanese Toshio Ito.

Horn and Vinceguerre, who are both wild bird watchers, were taken on Feb. 1, 2012 in Tawi-Tawi; Rodwell was seized from his house in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay on Dec. 5, 2011; Atyani and his two Filipino companions were held last June 2012; and Toshio was taken on July 2010.

Atyani’s two companions Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela were freed by the Abu Sayyaf last Saturday night, but the MNLF failed to secure Atyani.

Hashim said the forces of Malik are still in the jungles in Patikul waiting for the possible resumption of assault against the ASG.

“We hope hostages are freed so that the tension between the two forces will ease down,” Hashim said.

He said residents have not also returned from their houses in the area because of the brewing tension and fear of the resumption of fighting.

Earlier reports said that the ASG has split into smaller groups to divide the attention of the MNLF forces.

ABU SAYYAF ABU SAYYAF GROUP ATYANI AUSTRALIAN WARREN RICHARD RODWELL BAKER ABDULLA ATYANI EMMANUEL FONTANILLA EUROPEANS ELWOLD HORN FONTANILLA HABIB MUJAHAB HASHIM HASHIM HOLLAND AND LORENZO VINCEGUERRE OF SWITZERLAND
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