Gunmen suspected to be linked with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) released 10 captive Filipino “Badjao” tribesmen or sea gypsies unharmed late Friday, reportedly after they could not meet a ransom demand, Philippine police said.
A police mobile patrol recovered the victims near Kahawa village, in Sulu’s Talipao town. Military and police forces have been on high alert in the province following the recent abduction off Sabah, in Malaysia.
Talipao town police chief Napoleon Lango said the victims were freed Friday night because “they have no money to pay as ransom,” according to the Sulu Provincial Police Office.
The victims told police they were fishing before dawn Tuesday in waters off eastern Malaysia’s Sabah state when they were intercepted about 2:45 a.m. by gunmen aboard two speedboats who abducted 10 of them and left six others.
Malaysian authorities reported the suspects headed toward Tawi-Tawi, an island province in Mindanao, Philippines, with their captives, but local military forces could not confirm the reports at the time.
The victims were described to be in good condition and were brought to the Sulu Integrated Provincial Hospital Office to be examined. They were then returned to Talipao Police Station to be questioned about their captors.
The abductions took place a week after Malaysian police chief Abdul Hamid Bador warned that ASG continued to pose a security threat. The United States has listed the group as a foreign terrorist organization.
ASG is the smallest but considered the most brutal of several armed groups operating in the restive Philippine south. It is notorious for abducting foreigners, including citizens of neighboring Southeast Asian nations, and often holding them for ransom.