In a debriefing after they were rescued, Allan Hyrons and his wife Wilma identified several personalities in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, according to Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief.
Joint Task Force Sulu/Handout via The STAR/Roel Pareño
Lanao personalities tagged in kidnap of Briton, wife
Roel Pareño, Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Several personalities based in Lanao provinces have been tagged in the kidnapping of a British businessman and his Filipino wife, who were rescued following a firefight with soldiers in Sulu on Monday.

In a debriefing after they were rescued, Allan Hyrons and his wife Wilma identified several personalities in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, according to Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command chief.

The military is withholding the identities of the kidnappers, who are believed to have ties with Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Sobejana said concerned agencies are building a case against the kidnappers.

He said it was also learned during the debriefing that the kidnappers brought the couple to Basilan on their way to Sulu.

“Our assessment then was that they stayed in mainland (Zamboanga). It turned out... that the group stayed there (Basilan) briefly before moving to Sulu, where they initially lost their way, but subsequently landed on the island,” Sobejana said, citing Wilma’s statement.

Psychogical torture

The couple said they were not harmed by their captors, but they suffered psychological torture due to constant threats of execution if they would not pay P50 million.

Sobejana said the kidnappers lowered the ransom demand to P10 million during negotiations, which gave soldiers ample time to locate the bandits and their captives.

“One of our guards even told me he would be the one to execute us,” Wilma said. 

She said the kidnappers could have targeted them, believing they are rich. She denied reports that they own schools in the United Kingdom.

“We have been here barely five years helping children in our hometown go to school because I want to help them... I am a daughter of a fisherman who strived to finish my studies and was able to work abroad,” she said. 

The couple own a resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, where they were snatched on Oct. 4.

No ransom paid

Both the military and the couple stressed that no ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

“There’s no ransom paid. The no-ransom policy both by the British and the Philippines are very clear to us, the reason why sustained and relentless search and rescue operations were launched,” Sobejana said.

Hyrons said the payment of ransom is against the policy of the British government.

The couple said the clashes between their captors and soldiers that resulted in their rescue were the “most terrifying.”

“It was very frightening. It was something you see in the movies... but in real life it’s terrifying,” Hyrons said. 

The couple thanked the military and all those who helped rescue them. 

“The Army has done a fantastic job... I’m glad there was an encounter... the bad people were killed and we are freed,” Hyrons said. 

Six Abu Sayyaf bandits, including their two sub-leaders, were killed in the clashes with soldiers on Friday and Saturday.

Five soldiers and five other kidnappers were wounded in the clashes.

When asked if he would return to Tukuran despite the incident, Hyrons said: “Yes... 100 percent.”  

The couple were flown to Manila on a Philippine Air Force plane on Monday night.

British Ambassador Daniel Pruce met the couple at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at around 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defense congratulated Sobejana’s men.

“The rescue... is a result of our forces’ relentless operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits and a testament to the bravery and dedication of our troops on the ground,” DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong said.

BRITISH KIDNAP
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