Philippine Marines Rescue Indonesian Who Fled Abu Sayyaf Captors

Jeoffrey Maitem
Cotabato, Philippines
181206-PH-hostage-620.jpg Marines patrol the Jolo island coast in the southern Philippines while searching for Abu Sayyaf militants, in September 2016.
Ben Hajan/BenarNews

Marines rescued an Indonesian fisherman Thursday on the southern Philippine island of Jolo where Abu Sayyaf militants had held him captive since September, military officials said in a statement.

Usman Yusuf escaped from his captors early on Thursday in the village of Bual and was later picked up by members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team who were responding to reports from local villagers.

“I commend the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu for their unfaltering conduct of intensified military operations which bear outstanding accomplishments,” regional military chief Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega said in statement.

Dela Vega said Yusuf was taken to a military hospital in Jolo, where he was reported to be in good condition.

On Sept. 11, Abu Sayyaf gunmen intercepted a fishing boat berthed near Gaya island off Semporna district in the nearby Malaysia state of Sabah, kidnapping Yusuf and another Indonesian, taking them to the group’s jungle camp on Jolo island, Philippine and Malaysian officials said.

Two weeks later, relatives of the men received a ransom demand of nearly U.S. $1 million from a Malay caller who was telephone from the Philippines, Sabah Police Commissioner Omar Mammah told BenarNews. The owner of the boat received a similar ransom demand.

Abu Sayyaf history

Founded in the early 1990s, Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, bombings and beheading in southern Philippines over the past decade. The group was blacklisted by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization.

It is the smallest, but considered the most brutal, of several armed groups that operate in the restive south.

One of its leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, was later named the head of the Islamic State in the southern region. He was killed in October 2017 along with his aides, five months into the siege of the southern city of Marawi.

Abu Sayyaf factions in other parts of the south have been blamed for violent acts, including a car bombing on Basilan island that left 11 people dead in July. Eighteen Abu Sayyaf members were charged following the bombing, including Furuji Indama, the known leader of a faction operating on the island.

Two years ago, Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Canadian hostages and a German captive after their governments refused to pay ransoms.

The group is believed to still be holding three foreigners and three Filipino hostages.

Mark Navales in Cotabato, Philippines, and Zam Yusa in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, contributed to this report.


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