Abu Sayyaf frees 10 Indonesian captives

Roel Pareño - Philstar.com

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - The Abu Sayyaf group freed 10 Indonesian sailors on Sunday after holding them captive for 37 days in the jungle of Sulu, a police official said.

The source told The STAR that a ransom was allegedly paid to free the hostages, who had been taken at gunpoint from a tugboat sailing from Malaysia.

The military, whom President Benigno Aquino III has directed to launch and all-out offensive against the bandit group, refused to provide information on the release.

Jolo Police chief Police Superintendent Junpikar Sitin said the victims were escorted by emissaries to the house of Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan in Barangay Asturias, Jolo town around noon.

A civilian source said the delivery of the released captives was made amid a downpour.

The victims were provided meals and had a brief conversation with Gov. Tan inside his residence.

According to Sitin, the 10 freed captives were later brought to the trauma hospital inside Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Busbus for medical checkups.
The victims were declared to be in stable condition.

The police official could not confirm the reports that ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf but a source on the ground, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to give statements, said a huge ransom was paid.

It will be recalled that the Abu Sayyaf group demanded a P50-million ransom for the 10 hostages, whom they from the tugboat MB Brama while it was in Malaysian waters on March 26.

The Abu Sayyaf still holds four Indonesian crew members of another tugboat seized on April 1 in the waters off Sempornah, Sabah and brought to Sulu. The group, which the Philippines and the US have categorized as a terrorist group, is also holding thee remaining Samal tourists -- a Canadian, Norwegian, a Filipino woman -- a Dutch national, four Malaysians, a Chinese national and six other Filipinos.

The release of the 10 Indonesian captives came almost a week since the Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian captive John Ridsdel after the deadline to pay a P300-million ransom lapsed.

His decapitated head was placed in a sack and a plastic bag was dumped in front of the Jolo municipal hall. The headless body believed to Ridsdel's was recovered two days later in a village of Talipao town.

Before Ridsdel was murdered, security forces had been conducting operations to go after the Abu Sayyaf and rescue its captives. The military and police have said there will be no letup in operations against the group.

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