MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police rescued three Indonesian hostages and captured one of their Abu Sayyaf captors when the militants’ speedboat was lashed by huge waves and overturned as they were fleeing government operations, the military said Friday.
Authorities were searching for a fourth Indonesian kidnap victim who was on board the speedboat when it capsized off Pasigan Island Thursday night in the southernmost province of Tawi Tawi, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr. said.
A Philippine police report said villagers found the Indonesian men along the shore of South Ubian town in Tawi Tawi and called the police. It was not immediately clear if the Indonesians swam to shore.
The men were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen off Malaysia while working for a Malaysian fishing firm in January last year. The eight captives were taken across the sea border to Sulu province in the southern Philippines, where three of the victims were later freed and another was shot and killed while attempting to escape when their captors clashed with troops.
“The terrorists are evading the ongoing intensive military operations in Sulu so they sailed to Tawi-Tawi bringing along the captives with them,” a Tawi Tawi military commander, Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, said.
The Abu Sayyaf demanded ransom for the Indonesians but the captives came from poor fishing families and the Indonesian government has a no-ransom policy, Vinluan told DZMM radio network when asked if money changed hands.
One of those rescued was a 45-year-old Abu Sayyaf militant. Other militants in a separate speedboat remain missing although a man apparently from that boat was rescued by a passing passenger vessel and the military was verifying if he also belonged to the Abu Sayyaf, officials said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small but violent group that has been separately blacklisted by the Philippines and the United States as a terrorist organization for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings. Some factions of the group have aligned themselves with the Islamic State.
The militants have been considerably weakened by years of military offensives, surrenders and battle setbacks but remain a national security threat. They set off a security alarm in the region in recent years after they started venturing away from their jungle encampments in Sulu, a poverty wracked Muslim province in the largely Roman Catholic nation, and staged kidnappings in Malaysian coastal towns and also targeted crews of passing cargo ships.