• Sayyaf releases kidnapped woman

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected Abu Sayyaf members on Wednesday released a 28-year- old woman they kidnapped in Zamboanga City early this year following a successful negotiation in nearby Basilan province.

    Former Basilan vice governor Alrasheed Sakkalahul, who helped in securing the safe release of Sulu native Sabrina Voon, said the victim was freed in the coastal village of Bali–wasan where her family was anxiously waiting.

    Sakkalahul, who returned on June 22 from a trip with Vice President Jejomar Binay in Kuala Lumpur, said the woman’s family sought his assistance in securing Voon’s freedom.

    “I hurried back to the Philippines to find a way on how to get in touch with the kidnappers after Voon’s family sought my help in securing the safe release of Sabrina,” Sakkalahul told The Manila Times in a phone interview.

    “Through a third party, we were able to make contact with the kidnappers and secured the freedom of Sabrina Voon. We negotiated with the kidnappers and the authorities were well aware the negotiations and we did strictly on humanitarian grounds,” said Sakkalahul, adding that he was not aware if ransom was paid.

    The kidnappers originally demanded P5 million for the release of Voon, who was forcibly taken on February 19 from her house in Mercedes village and dragged to a waiting van by at least six gunmen disguised as policemen.

    Police also have filed criminal charges against the 28-year-old Abdul Hassan Yusop, who was among those who kidnapped Voon.

    Local police chief Angelito Casimiro said the kidnapper was identified through his photo on a fake driver’s license he used to hire the van in Zamboanga.

    Casimiro said Yusop, who used the name Rey Santos in his identification card, is a native of Tuburan town in Basilan.

    There was no immediate statement from Voon’s family about her release.

    Sakkalahul, a respected politician in Basilan, also negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for the safe release of kidnapped Australian adventurer Warren Rodwell after the Australian Embassy and his family sought the governor’s help.

    Rodwell, a former soldier, was kidnapped on December 2011 by armed men disguised as policemen in his house in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay province. He was freed on March 2013.

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