ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have threatened to behead a young Filipino man they had kidnapped in the southern province of Sulu if their ransom demand is not paid.
This developed as an Indonesian tugboat crew member who was set for execution by the Abu Sayyaf escaped Wednesday and was rescued by villagers in a coastal town in Sulu.
The militants are demanding P1 million in exchange for the life of Patrick James Almodovar, who is in his early 20s, or they will kill him on August 24.
In a video clip released by the Abu Sayyaf, Almodovar appealed to the government to save his life and pay the ransom.
Speaking in the Tausug dialect, he begged Governor Totoh Tan and Jolo Mayor Kerkar Tan to pay the Abu Sayyaf despite the strict no-ransom policy of the government.
“I am Patrick James Almodovar. I am a Catholic. To Governor Totoh Tan and Mayor Kerkar Tan and to my relatives, I am appealing for your help to free me from my captors and they are asking P1 million and if they don’t get what they are demanding, they will behead me exactly at two in the afternoon,” Almodovar said in the two-minute clip.
There were no immediate statements from the police and military.
Police and the military said Mohamad Sofyan, one of seven crew members of tugboat Charles, was found by civilians trapped inside a fish pen in the village of Bual in Luuk town, where the Abu Sayyaf is holding their hostages.
The Abu Sayyaf had set the beheading of the 28-year-old Indonesian but he managed to escape from his guards, according to the police.
It was unclear how he fled to safety or whether his compatriots are still alive or not.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command confirmed the report and said the police have taken custody of the Indonesian.
“Troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu were directed to scour the area and use all available assets to possibly locate the remaining kidnap victims and conduct operations to rescue them,” the military said in a statement.
The other sailors have been identified as Ferry Arifin, the tugboat skipper, M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, Ismail, M. Nasir and Robin Piter.
The boat, owned by PT Rusianto Brothers, was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip to the Philippines, when gunmen on speedboats intercepted it on June 22.
Indonesian media reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and demanded 20 million ringgit for their release.
The remaining hostages are believed to be held by the group of Alhabsi Misaya, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that signed a peace deal with the government in September 1996.
Misaya had split with the MNLF and joined the Abu Sayyaf several years ago after MNLF founder Nur Misuari reportedly ordered his execution for a still unknown reason, according to military intelligence reports.
The Abu Sayyaf previously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers in separate attacks at sea just this year and brought them to Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
They were eventually released through the intercession of Misuari.
The militant group has beheaded a Malaysian man and two Canadian hostages in Sulu after their family failed to pay ransom money.
Just this month, MNLF forces clashed with Misaya’s group in Kalingalan Caluang town and killed four Abu Sayyaf members.
Security officials said the four slain militants, including their automatic weapons, had been recovered by the MNLF fighters headed by commanders Taib Sahibad, Alih Kipli and Abraham Joel.
One of those killed by the MNLF forces had been identified by the military as Jennor Lahab, alias Commander Jim Dragon. Lahab was reported to be one of the aides of Misaya, a notorious militant leader.
On Tuesday, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen abducted public school teacher Edrina Manalas Bonsil while one her way to work in the town of Patikul also in Sulu.
Bonsil was travelling on a jeep when five gunmen flagged down the vehicle in Kanague village and forcibly dragged her out.
Just last month, Abu Sayyaf militants seized three people, Shariff Julhasan Abirin, Levi Gonzales and his pregnant wife Daniela Taruc, in a village in Patikul town.
The victims were aboard a multi-cab when gunmen flagged down the vehicle in the village of Timpook and seized them.
The gunmen threatened to behead Gonzales—who works as a technician for Globe Telecom—if their demand of a P1-million ransom is not paid by the Ayala-led company.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops last week to intensify their anti-terrorism campaign, including operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which is still holding more than a dozen mostly Asian hostages in the restive Muslim region.