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ASG frees 3 Indonesians

The Abu Sayyaf Group freed three Indonesian hostages in Sionogan, Sulu early yesterday morning, a day after the extremist group released Norwegian captive Kjartan Sekkingstad.

The three Indonesians were identified as Lorens Koten, Teodurus Kofung, and Emmanuel.

They were reportedly freed to the Moro National Liberation Front after the Indonesian government paid a R20-million ransom.

Sekkingstad, who was freed after his family paid a R30-million ransom, and the three Indonesians were turned over by MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dueza in Barangay Kagay, Indanan, Sulu, at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

Sekkingstad, accompanied by Dureza, was flown to Davao City from Jolo, Sulu while the three Indonesians were taken to Zamboanga City.

The government denied paying ransom for the freedom of the four hostages.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar asserted that the government has not and would not pay ransom in exchange for the freedom of kidnapped victims.

“I would like to reiterate the government maintains the no ransom policy. Now, if a third party or the family gave ransom, we don’t know about that,” he said.

Marine Col. Edgard A. Arevalo, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, credited the release of the hostages to the intensified military operations being waged by the military against the ASG.

Sekkingstad thanked President Duterte for the government’s efforts to secure his release. “His first words when I spoke to him on the phone were: ‘Thank you to President Duterte’,” Dureza said.

Fishermen Koten, Kofung, and Emmanuel were kidnapped in Lahad Datu, Sabah, last July 9. Sekkingstad was kidnapped from a tourist resort in Davao in September 2015 along with two Canadians and a Filipina. (Francis T. Wakefield)