Philippine Troops Rescue 2 Indonesians from Abu Sayyaf Captors

Richel V. Umel
2017.09.07
Marawi, Philippines
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170907-PH-ID-Indonesians-1000 Philippine military officers interview two former Abu Sayyaf hostages, Indonesian nationals Sarapuddin Koni (center, in red shirt) and Sawal Maryam (right), at a military hospital in Jolo, Sept. 7, 2017.
AFP

Philippine troops on Thursday rescued two Indonesian hostages held by Abu Sayyaf militants in the jungles of southern Jolo island, but the militants are believed to be still holding at least a dozen other foreigners as captives.

Marines led the assault that recovered Sarapuddin Koni and Sawal Maryam Ivo in an early morning operation near the town of Indanan, the military said.

No other details were given about Koni and Ivo, but the two Indonesians from Sulawesi were taken to a local hospital for check-ups and debriefing, it said.

The two were among 18 hostages still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, or Bearers of the Sword, in the volatile southern Philippines, out of whom at least 12 were believed or known to be foreigners.

Troops rescued two Vietnamese hostages in June and August, respectively, although two of their compatriots were beheaded in July.

The gunmen beheaded a German captive earlier this year and two Canadians last year after their governments rejected ransom demands.

At least five of the remaining hostages are Indonesian, according to information released by Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Jan. 10. That figure includes three Indonesians who were taken hostage in early January.

Sarapuddin Koni and Sawal Maryam Ivo, were abducted from their boat in November 2016 as they fished in waters between the southern Philippines and the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, officials said at the time.

They were among 25 Indonesian sailors taken hostage last year by Abu Sayyaf militants, but most were released or rescued since, the ministry said back in January.

In mid-June, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia launched joint patrols aimed at safeguarding their common waterways from the threat of more maritime kidnappings as well as preventing IS-linked militants from travelling between the southern Philippines and nearby Malaysian and Indonesian territories.

Marawi

The rescue came as troops continued to press the fight to rout an Abu Sayyaf unit led by Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged leader of the Islamic State in the region, from the southern city of Marawi.

Hapilon’s group has been engaged in fierce clashes against troops since taking over Marawi, and forcing its more than 200,000 residents to flee and transforming the city into a virtual wasteland since clashes began on May 23.

The military said Thursday that 839 people had died so far, the majority of them militants. But the fate of Hapilon, as well as leaders of the local Maute group and several Islamic State terrorists from Southeast Asia and the Middle East remains unknown.

The gunmen are also believed holding dozens of hostages, including a Catholic priest, that they are using as human shields to slow the advance of troops, the military said.

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