Abu Sayyaf Releases Three Indonesian Captives

Manila, Philippines, 02 Muharam 1438/02 October 2016 (MINA) — Three Indonesian hostages were released Sunday by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and were turned over to the local government by fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, a Cabinet official said.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said Misuari called him to inform him of the release, which happened before noon.

“Chairman Misuari requested me to relay this new development to President [Rodrigo] Duterte, in whose behalf I expressed gratitude for the efforts,” The Star quoted Dureza as saying in a statement issued to Malacañang reporters.

The Indonesian kidnap victims — identified as Edi Suryono, Ferry Arifin, and Muhamad Mohammad Mahbrur — were turned over to Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan, who then brought them to the military. They will undergo debriefing before they are sent back to Indonesia.

Suryono, Arifin, and Mahbrur were kidnapped by the bandit group from their tugboat last June 22 at Simisa Island in Sulu.

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Despite the development, Dureza said the Duterte administration’s stance against holding talks with the Abu Sayyaf has not changed.

“Nothing has changed. The military operations against them will continue. We are also trying to avail the cooperation of the local MNLF, and the local government of Sulu,” he told radio station dzBB.

“The stakeholders in the area want to do away with this plague because it has been affecting the whole province of Sulu. They are being viewed as a hostage area,” he added.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command, said the neutralization of brothers Nixon and Brown Muktadil and the wounding of four oof their followers early this week from the military operations might have pressured the Abu Sayyaf group to free the their captives.

The Muktadil brothers were tagged in the the cross-border abduction of 26 Indonesian and Malaysian nationals since April.

Earlier, Duterte claimed that Misuari is asking him to include the Abu Sayyaf bandits in peace talks and to consider giving them a general amnesty. The president, however, rejected Misuari’s proposal.

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“If that’s the case then let’s not talk anymore. I will not. For the life of me, I will not,” he told Marines in Fort Bonifacio on Sept. 27.

“Why should I talk to animals? What’s the point? They are merciless,” he added.

The MNLF has “vehemently” denied that Misuari asked that the bandit group be included in peace talks.

Dureza said Misuari did not ask him for anything during their conversation except to relay to Duterte the release of the three kidnap victims. He said the Abu Sayyaf still has captives but declined to identify them.

“We’re trying to find ways and means to recover them,” the presidential peace adviser said.



Misuari also secured release of Norwegian, 3 Indonesians

Misuari has been charged with rebellion over the 2013 Zamboanga siege, which left more than 200 people dead. The 20-day crisis started after his followers tried to raise their flag at the Zamboanga City Hall and held hostage hundreds of civilians.

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Duterte has expressed readiness to talk to Misuari and has promised not to implement the arrest warrant against the MNLF founder.

Misuari was also credited for the release of Norwegian kidnap victim Kjartan Sekkingstad last month. Sekkingstad was abducted along with three companions in Samal Island off Davao del Norte on Sept. 21, 2015.

Two of Sekkingstad’s companions, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, were beheaded early this year after their families had failed to pay the P300 million ransom demanded by the kidnappers. His Filipina companion, Maritess Flor, was released last June 24.

Misuari also played a role in the release of three Indonesians last month in Sulu. The Indonesians, who were abducted last July in Sabah, were turned over to the MNLF founder before they were brought to authorities. (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj IslamicNews Agency (MINA)