Abu Sayyaf captive ‘alive’ — Authorities PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 11:58

Philippines authorities believe that a Dutch hostage of the Abu Sayyaf in the troubled province of Sulu is still alive following information given by a fellow hostage who escaped the group’s clutches Saturday.

“We believe that he is still alive along with other kidnap victims being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the mountains of Sulu,” Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command, told The Anadolu Agency.

The group snatched the two men in Feb. 2012 while they were bird watching on the island province of Tawi-Tawi.

The general added that Dutch captive Ewold Horn is suffering a back injury and was therefore unable to flee with Lorenzo Vinciguerra - a Swiss national.

“Vinciguerra revealed to us that Horn was too weak to join him in his escape,” Guerrero said.

Army spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla Jr. said that while fleeing the 49-year-old Swiss national had suffered a hack wound to his cheek in a fight with one of his captors who he eventually overcame and killed.

He added that the rescue was the result of an all-out law enforcement operation launched by the military against the group in Sulu last month, hours before the release of German couple Stefan Viktor Okonek and Herike Diesen.

The group has claimed it was paid a P250 million ($5.5 million) ransom for the release but the government has maintained no payment took place.

Padilla dismissed accusations that a ransom was paid for the release of Vinciguera, saying that the wound he suffered fleeing proved there was no such payment.

In an interview, Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the Joint Task Group Zamboanga, declined to say whether he would recommend other hostages follow Vinciguerra’s efforts in overpowering and killing one of the guards.

Vinciguerra made his escape as government forces shelled an Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul, Sulu province. According to reports, he grabbed a bolo - similar to a machete - from Abu Sayyaf Commander Juhurim Hussein and hacked at his neck, killing him.

He was subsequently rescued by military forces.

Colina said that it would not be worth publically encouraging others to do the same, as that would put the Abu Sayyaf on their guard.

“We’d rather keep silent about it [and] let the kidnap victims take their own initiative,” he said. “The moment the Abu Sayyaf will know such move they will tie their victims up, so let the kidnap victims decide on what is best when the opportunity comes.”

Padilla Jr. said that the government would continue its all-out law enforcement operation against the Abu Sayyaf, who are still holding several hostages in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

Along with Horn, they continue to hold a Malaysian marine police official and a 32-year-old Chinese national who were taken from a resort in Malaysia’s easternmost state of Sabah in July, a Japanese treasure hunter abducted in 2010; a Chinese mother and daughter kidnapped in Isabela City in Basilan May 22; and two Chinese Malaysians who were also seized in Sabah in 2012.

Police and military forces say they are intensifying operations to intercept Abu Sayyaf militants who might slip into Zamboanga City in the south in an effort to escape military operations in Basilan and Sulu.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the Joint Task Group Zamboanga, said that they were also monitoring possible diversionary attacks by the group, an effort previously adopted to ease military pressure.

The group has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines since 1991. It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid.