Abu Sayyaf releases two social workers

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf militants have freed two of three social workers they snatched in Talipao town, Sulu, police said on Sunday.

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Sulu police chief Senior Supt. Abraham Orbita said municipal coordinator Nurhati Sicangco and husband Mark were released in the village of Danag in Patikul town and fetched by their relatives and brought to the house of the local vice mayor. It was unknown if ransom was paid.

Orbita said the victims were brought to hospital for routine medical examination before sending them home.

“They are okay and reunited with their family. There is an ongoing operation to search for the remaining hostage,” he said.

Orbita said the fate of remaining captive Roberto Saputalo remains unknown.

Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., commander of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Task Force in Sulu, said another social worker identified as Lerma Jura was released by the Abu Sayyaf late Friday.

Investigation by the Talipao Municipal Police showed that the four social workers were seized while conducting a house-to-house survey on the government’s Pantawid, Pamilyang Pilipino Program for the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the village of Upper Sinumaan.

It was unknown why the Abu Sayyaf targeted the social workers, who were active in various government programs that benefit poor Muslim villagers in Sulu.

Sulu government officials condemned the kidnappings while the DSWD and mayors of Talipao and Patikul town have yet to make statements on the incident.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least 10 people, including foreigners seized from the neighboring Tawi-Tawi province and Sabah in Malaysia.

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