ZAMBOANGA CITY: Authorities said kidnappers have released four people, two of them children, after more than a week in captivity in the southern province of Sulu.
Capt. Maria Rowena Myuela, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the children, including their nanny Almalyn Abuhail, and driver Saddam Amlih, were all freed unharmed on Wednesday afternoon in the village of Latih in Patikul town.
“They were safely released by their abductors at the vicinity of Daan Puti circumferential road in the village of Latih in Patikul and the victims are now reunited with their families,” she told The Manila Times.
It was unknown whether the children’s family paid anything to the kidnappers, but Myuela said no ransom was paid for the freedom of the victims. Security forces were ordered to track down the kidnappers in the town. There was no immediate statement from the town’s officials, but Patikul has been the site of numerous kidnappings in the past despite the presence of a Marine base in Patikul.
Police said the victims were seized March 3 by armed men clad in white robes called thawb or thobe or kandura while on their way in a car to Notre Dame school in the capital town of Jolo. It said a jeep used by the gunmen blocked their path on General Arolas Street in the village of Alat and forcibly dragged them out of the car.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the incident, but authorities have largely blamed Abu Sayyaf rebels for the spate of ransom kidnappings in the area.
Just last month, suspected Abu Sayyaf also abducted a couple—Bonifacio Salinas, 54, and his wife, Claire—both working for the Jolo Mainland Water District.
In December, police arrested an Abu Sayyaf member Haik Asgali alias Abu Aswad who was linked to the February 2012 kidnapping in Tawi-Tawi province of two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland.
Asgali, who was captured in Jolo town, is a nephew of Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron.
The two foreigners, along with their Filipino guide Ivan Sarenas, 35, were abducted at gunpoint by five men in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town while taking photographs of wild birds, and were handed over to the Abu Sayyaf. Sarenas managed to escape, but the fate of the two foreigners is unknown.
The Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped the provincial treasurer of Sulu, Jess Cabilin, in Patikul town in November and was a released unharmed following a negotiation launched by his family.