FOLLOWING the release of one Norwegian and three Indonesian hostages, the military on Sunday vowed to maintain intense pressure on the Abu Sayyaf terrorist and kidnap group to force it to free other captives.
Gen. Ricardo Visaya, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said the military would be unrelenting in its operations against the bandit group.
“We will continue to forge the support and cooperation of the local residents who will ultimately benefit from the success of these operations,” he said.
Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesman of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, claimed that relentless land, sea and air operations forced the Abu Sayyaf to free Norwegian kidnap victim Kjartan Sekkingstad.
The Naval Commander Amphibious Task Group conducted raids at the islands of Pata and Kalinggalang Caluang in Sulu, resulting in the confiscation of 15 unregistered motorized boats, Tan said.
A boat was also seized by the Philippine National Police in Parang, Sulu. The boat was believed to have been used by Abu Sayyaf member Alhabsy Misaya, who was said to have been responsible for kidnapping Indonesian and Malaysian tugboat crews in the high seas in the past months.
Commenting on reports that ransom money went to the kidnappers, Arevalo said: “We have not received such information [on ransom]although we can always validate that on the ground. Maybe it is not that apparent to the public the effect, or how the intensity of the unrelenting conduct of operations really falls on the Abu Sayyaf Group.”
Brig. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, commander of the AFP Joint Task Force Sulu, claimed the Abu Sayyaf was forced to release Sekkingstad because his presence “slows them down” and releasing him would allow the kidnap group to evade soldiers.
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 no ransom money was paid. Flor was released by the group in June.