An elementary school educator who was abducted a day earlier by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippine province of Sulu was released hours later, police said Friday.
Heavily armed militants stormed the Liang Elementary School in the town of Patikul on Tuesday morning and snatched Principal Marjorie Abdul at gunpoint, according to Capt. Joa-ann Petinglay, the military’s Western Mindanao Command spokeswoman.
Troops immediately launched an operation to go after the abductors who are known to control parts of Patikul, Petinglay said.
“We strongly condemn any kidnapping ploys employed by lawless groups in the province. Rest assured that we will sustain our operations in coordination with law enforcement agencies,” Petinglay said.
Police sources in Sulu, however, told BenarNews that Abdul was freed about 12 hours later after her family paid an unspecified ransom. It was not clear whether the military was aware of this development, and calls to Petinglay late Friday went unanswered.
Abdul’s abduction and apparent release occurred days after another Muslim teacher, Doris Hamsirani, 45, was freed after a week in captivity. Police found Hamsirani Tuesday morning as she wandered in Patikul after escaping from her captors, according to media reports.
Earlier this week, authorities in nearby Zamboanga City captured two Abu Sayyaf militants who were allegedly involved in the abduction of 21 foreign tourists from a resort in Malaysia 18 years ago.
With a few hundred members, Abu Sayyaf is driven by profit and has long abandoned its ideological leanings.
It is blamed for some of the worst kidnappings, bombings and beheadings of locals and foreign hostages during the past two decades. In the last two years alone, the group beheaded a German and two Canadians it had kidnapped separately in the south after their governments failed to pay ransoms.
Last year, a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group led by Isnilon Hapilon, the acknowledged leader of the Islamic State in the country, laid siege to the southern city of Marawi and displaced thousands of residents. The five-month siege killed 1,200 people, mostly militants, and left the once-beautiful lakeshore region in shambles.