SULU: Abu Sayyaf jihadists freed Wednesday four Indonesian sailors after a series of negotiations made by the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in this southern Philippine province.
MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari had persuaded the Abu Sayyaf to free the sailors without ransom, according to provincial Gov. Totoh Tan, who received the Indonesians in his home in Jolo town.
Misuari’s wife, Tarhata, and former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zein accompanied the sailors—Mochammad Ariyanto Mijnan, Lorens Peter, Dede Irfan Hilmi, and Samsir—and handed them over to Tan.
Zein sought Misuari’s help—for the second time—for the safe release of the hostages, who were freed in Indanan town. Zein also briefed Tan on the role of Misuari in persuading the Abu Sayyaf to release the sailors, who were all tugboat crew members kidnapped last month at sea off Tawi-Tawi province near the Sabah border, and brought them to Sulu province.
“It was MNLF Islamic persuasion and joint efforts of the military and police, and the local and provincial government,” Tan, chairman of the local crisis management committee, told The Manila Times. “No ransom was paid for the freedom of the Indonesians.”
No one from among the hostages spoke to the media, but they all thanked Tan and shook hands with him. Sulu Vice Gov. Salur Tan was also present during the meeting.
Zein praised Misuari and Tan and the Philippine government in their role in securing the freedom of the Indonesians. “We thanked Brother Nur, the MNLF, Governor Tan and the Philippine government and all those who helped in securing the safe release of the hostages,” he said.
Tan said the Indonesians were brought to a military hospital in Jolo town for a routine medical examination before being handed over to Indonesian government officials.
Just last month, Misuari also sought the release of 10 Indonesian tugboat crew members kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Tawi-Tawi province after Zein appealed to the MNLF to help Jakarta in freeing the hostages. The seamen were brought by the MNLF to the residence of Tan, who handed them over to the authorities.
The Abu Sayyaf—which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—is still holding four Malaysian sailors, a Canadian man, a Norwegian resort manager, a Dutch photographer, and a Japanese treasure hunter in southern Philippines. AL JACINTO