Islamic State-linked militants shot and wounded a Malaysian hostage as Filipino security forces rescued him in the southern Philippines on Thursday, almost four months after the man and two Indonesians were seized at sea off eastern Malaysia, military officials said.
After his rescue Malaysian fisherman Jari Abdullah was being treated at a hospital in Zamboanga city, 1,334 km (833 miles) south of Manila, but the fate of the two Indonesians was not known, authorities said.
“The kidnap victim tried to escape from his captors during the firefight but was shot by the Abu Sayyaf,” Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman of the military’s Southern Command, told BenarNews.
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants snatched Jarin and the Indonesians from their fishing boat off Pegasus Reef, located in waters off Sabah state in nearby Malaysian Borneo, on Dec. 6, 2018, authorities said.
Besana said members of the Philippine Marines recovered Abdullah at around 4:30 p.m. after a brief firefight with his captors on Simisa Island, part of a chain of islands in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.
Besana said the marines found Jari lying near the withdrawal route taken by his captors.
He was airlifted to a military facility in Jolo, the provincial capital of Sulu, before he was transferred to a hospital in Zamboanga city, about 215 km (134 miles) away, officials said.
Authorities did not provide information on the extent of Jari’s injuries.
“We have not spoken with the victim who is now undergoing [treatment] at the hospital,” Besana said.
Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo Jr, the army commander in Sulu, said there were no casualties on the government side during Thursday’s rescue operation. It was not immediately clear if the militants suffered casualties.
“The ASG’s act of shooting the hapless kidnapped victim is indicative of their hopelessness and of being desperate as they are now surrounded by our pursuing troops,” Pabayo said.
“The AFP in Sulu is now more motivated to hunt down these terrorists,” he said, using the acronym for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The ASG, the smallest but most brutal of several militant groups in the southern Philippines, is believed to be holding local and foreign hostages in the volatile south.
Apart from abductions, it captured headlines during the past decade for its alleged involvement in bombings and beheadings in the southern Philippines. Over the past three years, ASG militants decapitated two Canadians and a German they had seized separately, military officials said.
One of ASG’s leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, became the acknowledged leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia and led a siege of the southern city of Marawi in May 2017. That siege led to a five-month battle with government forces that left 1,200 people dead, most of them militants, including Hapilon.
ASG factions have been blamed for a car bombing in Basilan island that killed 11 people last year. In January, defense officials also linked the group’s leader in Jolo to a bomb that killed 23 people and wounded dozens at a local Catholic church.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Manila, Mark Navales in Cotabato City, Philippines, and Zam Yusa in Sabah, Malaysia, contributed to this report.