3 Malaysian Hostages of Abu Sayyaf Found

Colin Forsythe and Hata Wahari
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur
170327-MY-reunion-1000 Rescued Malaysian sailor Tayudin Anjut reunites with his family in Kuala Lumpur, March 27, 2017.
Hata Wahari/BenarNews

Three Malaysian sailors held captive for months by Abu Sayyaf Group militants were found alive and safe in the southern Philippines over the weekend, officials in Malaysia confirmed Monday.

Meanwhile, two fellow crew members and who had also been taken hostage by ASG were reunited with their families in Kuala Lumpur on Monday after being rescued by the Philippine military last week when they were found in a boat adrift at sea.

Wan Abd Bari Wan Abd Khalid, head of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) in eastern Malaysia, confirmed that the three other sailors were now free men after being found wandering together in Sulu province on Sunday.

The three were the last Malaysians freed from the custody of the ASG, a Muslim militant group based in the southern Philippines and believed to still be holding two Indonesians.

“The three victims, Fandy bin Bakaran, Mohammad Jumadil bin Rahim and Mohd Ridzuan bin Ismail were rescued on March 26 in a public area in Poblacion Punay, Panglima Estino, Sulu,” Wan Abd Bari said in a statement.

“That’s all I can say, for now, that they have been rescued,” he said when BenarNews contacted him for more details.

The ESSCOM chief’s statement said the three were in the care of the Philippine military.

“Like the other two rescued victims, arrangements to bring them home will be made as soon as possible,” his statement said.

The news surprised Ridzuan’s wife, Hariyanti Amsi.

“Really? He’s been rescued? Oh God, I have been waiting for this moment for eight months,” she told Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

The three were expected to be flown later Monday to Zamboanga City, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, before arrangements were made for them to return to Malaysia.

Fandy, 26, Mohammad Jumadil, 23, and Mohd Ridzuan, 32, along with Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Abdul Rahim Summas, 62,  served as crew aboard the tugboat Serudung, which was hijacked by ASG on July 18, 2016, in waters Sabah, Malaysia and Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines.


‘Treated like slaves’

Tayudin and Abdul Rahim were found Thursday drifting in a boat off Kalinggalang Caluang near Pata island in Sulu province.

On Monday, the two sailors reunited with their families at Prime Minister Najib Razak’s residence in Kuala Lumpur. Tayudin said they had to endure threats of being shot or beheaded during the eight months they were held in a forest. Abu Sayyaf has held hostages for ransom, and has executed two Canadians and German in its custody since last year.

“We always moved at night so we didn’t know where we were heading, and, last week, we were told to move again. We didn’t even realize that we were separated from the other three and were rescued by the Philippine army,” Tayudin told reporters.

“We were treated like slaves and we were given meals at times,” he said, adding he was not beaten.

Tayudin said the lack of healthy food affected his health, including his eyesight, saying he could barely see.

“We always slept with body aches and pains from all the work we had to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahim said his experience of being held captive traumatized him.

“I had high blood pressure but I was able to walk. Now I’m unable to due to the poor treatment by them,” he said.

Prime Minister Najib said he was grateful for the return of the two sailors, adding that no ransom had been paid.

“They explained the sufferings they went through and I heard the pressure the families had to undergo during the period of their detention,” he said.

The government will cover all medical expenses for the men, the prime minister pledged.

In 2016, ASG kidnapped 10 Malaysian and 27 Indonesian sailors at sea. All of them, except for two Indonesians, have since been freed.

In an effort to stop such kidnappings, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines plan to launch joint patrols in the Sulu Sea next month. Last year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte allowed Malaysia and Indonesia to conduct hot pursuits of militant boats into Philippine waters to capture kidnappers and free their hostages.


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