KIDAPAWAN CITY: Four of the six sawmill workers who were abducted by jihadists in Lanao del Sur last week on suspicion that they were government spies were freed on Monday following series of negotiations.
Philippine Army deputy commander of the Marawi City-based 103rd Infantry Brigade (103IB), Col. Manolo Samarita, confirmed to The Manila Times the release of Julieto Hanobas, also known as (aka) Buloy; Alfredo Anoos aka Isoy, Gabriel Permites, and Adones Mendez.
However, he said, Salvador Hanobas aka Tado and Makol Hanobas aka Macky were still in the hands of the captors, and their status was not certain.
He added that they were still monitoring the situation and verifying reports that the remaining captives were reportedly beheaded.
Samarita said the four, suspected by the group to be spying for the government, were safely released at about 10:15 a.m. in Barangay Sandab, the same place where they were abducted, and were handed over to their employer Haja Anisa Unda accompanied by Butig town Mayor Ibrahim Macadatu.
Negotiations were reportedly conducted by Macadatu, Col. Roseller Murillo of the 41st Infantry Battalion and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders who lobbied with young generation jihadists for the safety of the hostages.
The abductors, calling themselves the Dawlah Islamiyah or Islamic State in Lanao headed by Abdullah Maute alias Abu Hasan, demanded the release of their comrade, whom they identified as 13-year-old Ayman, who was allegedly captured by the military last February.
Military and police officials, however, said no jihadist was captured during and after the recent clash in Butig.
Their release came a day after the deadline set by the abductors expired, with threat to decapitate the hostages if their demand failed to be delivered on Sunday.
They also uploaded photos of the hostages wearing prisoners’ orange uniforms similar to the Islamic State (IS’s) captives in Syria and Iraq.
It was learned that the jihadists raised suspicions on spies in Butig after shooting down a military spy drone hovering over their controlled area a day before the abduction on April 4.
The military and other authorities did not comment on the surveillance camera reportedly recovered by the militants.