Malaysia: 2 Abu Sayyaf Hostages Found Alive at Sea

Colin Forsythe
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
170323-TH-PH-hostages-620.jpg Two Malaysian sailors are transported aboard a motorboat in this undated photo released by the Philippine military, after they rescued off Sulu island following months of captivity at the hands of Muslim militants, March 23, 2017.

Two Malaysians found drifting in a boat off the southern Philippines were rescued after spending eight months as hostages of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants, the Philippine military said Thursday.

But news of the rescue of sailors Tayudin Anjut, 45, and Abdul Rahim Summas, 62, was dimmed by reports about two Filipino crew members being abducted by unidentified gunmen Thursday from a ship off Basilan, a southern Philippine province, according to Philippine news reports. Three shipmates of the rescued Malaysians who were kidnapped alongside them on July 18, 2016, are believed to be in ASG custody.

Malaysian authorities said they were trying to verify reports about the early Thursday morning rescue of the two sailors off Jolo province.

“We are still gathering details from our Philippines counterparts and want to verify as to the accuracy of the news reports,” Ramli Din, the police chief in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah that lies close to the southern Philippines, told local reporters Thursday.

Gustiah Sultan, 47, the wife of Tayudin, said she was waiting for confirmation from officials about her husband’s release.

“I have yet to receive any official news from the government other than what is shown in the television. I am anxiously waiting for the official word from them,” she told BenarNews.

When shown a picture of a man linked to the rescue, Gustiah replied, “Yes, that's my husband. The one in blue is my husband. I hope this is for real.”

‘All right’

Tayudin and Abdul Rahim were among five Malaysian crewmen who were abducted off the tugboat Serudung 3, as it sailed off Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah. The three men who remain missing are Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, Fandy Bakran, 26, and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32.

Philippine media reported the three others were held by a different ASG commander whose unit is on the run from a military offensive in the southern Philippines.

The two rescued men looked scared but were “all right” after being found in the boat, Cpt.  Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said in a statement according to media reports.

“A Fleet-Marine team composed of sailors and marines under the Joint Task Force Sulu successfully rescued two Malaysian hostages who were held captive by the Abu Sayyaf Group at 2 a.m. today (Thursday) in the waters off Kalinggalang Caluang near Pata island, Sulu Province,”  Petinglay said.

“The marines launched the rescue operation after they received information the hostages were tagging along Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya and 30 followers who were hiding at a mangrove area in Barangay Karudong in Kalinggalang Caluang, Sulu.”

The two sailors were sent to a military camp in Jolo for observation before being airlifted to Zamboanga City, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen had abandoned Tayudin and Abdul Rahim before dawn near a coastal forest hideout on the remote island of Pata, the report said.



Fresh kidnapping

The rescue followed a Philippine military operation against the kidnappers on a nearby island earlier this month that left eight gunmen dead, Maj. Gen. Carlito Gomez said in a statement, according to AFP.

Among those killed was ASG militant leader Buchoy Hassan (alias Black or Bocoi), who was on Malaysia’s “wanted list” for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei and the killing of her husband at the Pom Pom Island Resort in Sabah four years ago.

For years, ASG has been kidnapping and holding hostages for ransom, and executing some of them. In February, the group released a video showing the beheading of a German hostage, Jurgen Kantner, after a deadline for a U.S. $600,000 (2.6 million ringgit) ransom passed.

Last year, ASG militants were blamed for attacks on ships in waters between Borneo island from the southern Philippines that resulted in abductions of dozens of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors. Many have since been released unharmed but three Malaysians and two Indonesians are believed to be in ASG captivity. Other hostages include 13 Vietnamese, a Dutch national, a Japanese and seven Filipinos.

On Thursday, two Filipino crew members of a tugboat – its skipper and the chief engineer – were taken by gunmen from the Super Shuttle Tug 1 as it towed a Panama-flagged ship off Basilan, but the attackers left behind nine shipmates and 31 crew members of the other vessel, a Philippine coast guard official told the Associated Press.

After months of negotiations, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia this month announced that they would launch joint naval patrols in early April to stop hijackings of ships, acts of piracy and maritime kidnappings in their common sea lanes.

Dennis Wong contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.