• Abu Sayyaf frees 2 more hostages in Sulu

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    FOLLOWING the release of a Norwegian and three Indonesian hostages, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group freed two Filipino captives in Sulu on Sunday, which was attributed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “sustained military operations.”

    Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesman of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, said Daniela Taruc and Levy Gonzales, employees of Power City Corp. a subcontractor of a telecommunication company, were freed and later found by a local at Barangay Tiptipon in Panglima Estino town, at about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

    They were brought to the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Sulu to undergo medical check-up and debriefing.

    The two were kidnapped by armed men in Barangay Timpook, Patikul town on August 6.

    “The sustained military operations pressured the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) FOLLOWING the release of a Norwegian and three Indonesian hostages, the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group freed two Filipino captives in Sulu on Sunday, which was attributed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “sustained military operations.”

    Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesman of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, said Daniela Taruc and Levy Gonzales, employees of Power City Corp. a subcontractor of a telecommunication company, were freed and later found by a local at Barangay Tiptipon in Panglima Estino town, at about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

    They were brought to the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Sulu to undergo medical check-up and debriefing.

    The two were kidnapped by armed men in Barangay Timpook, Patikul town on August 6.

    “The sustained military operations pressured the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and continue to result in the consecutive releases of the kidnap victims these past few days,” said Tan.

    Late Friday, the bandits released Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad following negotiations that involved the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Reports claimed P30 million in ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for Sekkingstad’s freedom.

    A day later, the terror and kidnap group freed Indonesian fishermen Lorens Koten, Teodurus Kofung and Emmanuel.

    Sekkingstad was kidnapped along with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Maritess Flor, a Filipina, in September last year in a resort at Samal Island in Davao del Norte province.

    Ridsdel and Hall were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf supposedly after ransom demands were not met. Flor was released by the militants in June.

    The three Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped on July 9 at Lahad Datu in Sabah.

    The Abu Sayyaf is still holding more than a dozen other hostages, including Malaysian and Indonesian tugboat crew and Filipino fishermen kidnapped in Sabah.

    Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman, said the military was hoping the remaining hostages would be freed and rescued as the bandits have split into smaller groups, and many of the hostages were bring held by smaller groups.

    “And we hope to bring fruit into our efforts by a more intense and more focused operation that is still in the offing. The government as you may well know has also sought the assistance of the MNLF regarding this issue. We would also like to extend our appreciation to the MNLF because of our request for them to keep away from areas of operation where the AFP is dominantly engaged with the ASG,” said Padilla.

    Asked about the condition of the remaining hostages, Padilla said that based on the latest validation of reports coming from the field, they were all in good shape.

    Padilla reiterated that the military’s mission was very specific—to degrade the capability of the Abu Sayyaf to launch or conduct its activities.

    “So in order to accomplish that we must pursue this operation to its rightful end. [But] our primordial concern right now is the safety of the hostages … after that is the complete security of the island and its long-term development as a potential investment site in the future,” he said.

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