Philippine militants free 3 Indonesian hostages
Islamic militants in the Philippines have freed three Indonesian sailors abducted at sea, officials said, in the latest release by the Abu Sayyaf group after a kidnapping spree in the restive south.
The Abu Sayyaf handed over the three men on Jolo island to a major rebel group which then released them to authorities today, government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza said. “The turnover was smooth and now the three will get a medical check-up and a debriefing before being turned over to an Indonesian representative,” said Dureza.
The three were part of a group of sailors abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in June, authorities said. The terms of the release were not disclosed, but the Abu Sayyaf typically releases hostages after hefty ransom payments are paid.
Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi also confirmed the three hostages - Ferry Arifin, Edi Suryono and Muhamad Mabrur Dahri - had been freed and would be handed over to a team from the Indonesian embassy.
Sunday’s handover was the latest hostage release overseen by Nur Misuari, an elder Muslim rebel leader with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group. After a decade-long insurgency, the MNLF is currently engaged in peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte. The Abu Sayyaf is not part of the peace process.
“These recent breakthroughs were a convergence of efforts that President Duterte initiated, getting the cooperation of the MNLF,” Dureza said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, and has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.
While its leaders have in recent years pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, analysts say it is mainly focused on a lucrative kidnapping business rather than religious ideology.