by Aaron Recuenco
Three Indonesia hostages were freed by their Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) captors barely four months after they were kidnapped in Simisi Island in Sulu.
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the victims were released on Saturday night to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and were later turned over to the governor of Sulu.
He identified the victims based on the passport as Ferry Arifin, 26; Dan Edi Suryono, 27; and Mohammad Mahbur, 27 and were all taken to a nearby hospital for medical examination.
“The three freed victims were part of the group of seven kidnapped by Muktadil brothers in June 25,” said Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman of the Joint Task Force Sulu.
He said the Muktadil brothers were killed in a military operation in Sulu last week.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretay Jesus Dureza said no less than Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari was instrumental in the release of the victims.
“Chairman Misuari personally called me and informed me about another breakthrough in the efforts to recover hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf Group,” said Dureza. “Chairman Misuri requested me to relay this new development to President Duterte in whose behalf I expressed gratitude for the efforts.”
The three Indonesians were crew members of Tugboat Charles 00 who were kidnapped in the area of Simisa Island, Sulu, last June 22.
It was recalled that Duterte asked for the lifting of the arrest warrant issued against Misuari as part of the peace efforts with the MNLF as well as the negotiations for the release of the remaining ASG hostages.
The arrest warrant was in connection with the Zamboanga City siege in 2013 wherein more than 200 people were killed, including 12 civilians and 25 policemen and soldiers, and the razing down of five barangays when MNLF fighters tried to overrun the entire City.
Dela Vega said a total of 16 hostages were either freed or rescued since the military intensified the operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
Nine of them are Indonesians, six are Filipinos and the remainng one was a Norwegian.
But 12 more remain in the clutches of the ASG, including five Malaysians, four Filipinos, two Indonesians and a Dutch.
Former hostages earlier revealed that ASG members were usually high on drugs and were personally seen by them taking shabu.
Reports from line units indicate that drug money is being used by ASG to finance its daily operations in conducting criminal acts, terrorism and anti-Islamic activities. (With a report from Francis T. Wakefield)