After more than two years in captivity, a European wildlife photographer finally eluded his Abu Sayyaf captors, killing one of the group’s sub-leaders with a bolo in the process.
Philippine Marines Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 49, was wounded in the left cheek after scuffling for the bolo.He is recuperating at a local hospital.
Vinciguerra was also shot at while escaping, but managed to reach the soldiers who were conducting a military operation in a mountainous part of Patikul town in Sulu province early yesterday morning.
Police provincial director Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita identified the slain rebel as Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Juhurim Hussien.
Muyuela said the intensified campaign against terrorist groups opened the chance for Vinciguerra to escape his captors.
“The military, in coordination with the police, continues to intensify the conduct of law enforcement operations in order to expedite the capture of lawless elements responsible for the series of atrocities in the province,” her report read.
It added that Vinciguerra was airlifted from Patikul town to the military headquarters in Jolo, Sulu before he was brought to hospital for treatment.
The fate of his companion, Dutch Ewold Horn, 54, is still unknown although the local police claimed that a separate Abu Sayyaf group is holding him hostage.
Both Vinciguerra and Horn were with Filipino guides Ivan Sadinas and Nestor Cabaluas when five members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) abducted them from Panglima Sugala island in Tawi-tawi province on February 1, 2012. The MNLF later turned over the two foreigners to the Abu Sayyaf. Their guides reportedly escaped the terrorist group shortly after the abduction and notified the police of the incident.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign hostages. It has also threatened to kill Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, if their demand for 3 million ringgits (P41 million) ransom is not paid. He was kidnapped along with a Filipino worker on June 16 this year from a fish farm in the town of Kunak in Tawau District.
The group also seized Malaysian policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, last June 12 after a clash in Sabah that killed another policeman. The militants are demanding 5 million ringgits (P68.3 million).
Also held in captivity are Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010, and a few Filipinos who were taken from different locations in Zamboanga, Basilan and other nearby areas.
In October the bandits freed German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, in Sulu after reportedly receiving millions in ransom money from Germany. The two were on a private yacht to Sabah, Malaysia from a holiday in Palawan province when members of the terrorist group snatched them
The Abu Sayyaf group, founded in 1991, seeks the establishment of an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy in southern Philippines and is present in the Muslim autonomous region. The US military is assisting the Philippine armed forces in its anti-terrorism campaigns in Mindanao
In a related incident, at least five Abu Sayyaf members were killed in a clash with soldiers in Barangay Bagsak, Talipao, Sulu yesterday morning. The gunfight also resulted to the wounding of seven rebels.
Ensign Chester Ian Ramos, information officer of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta, reported that the rebels were followers of Abu sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, whose group is based in Talipao town.
WITH REPORTS FROM ANTHONY VARGAS