MANILA: Abu Sayyaf gunmen have freed two Filipino crewmen of a Jordanian TV journalist who were kidnapped last year but Al-Qaeda-linked militants continued to hold the reporter and four other foreigners in a jungle where a fierce clash between the extremists and another rebel group erupted yesterday, officials said.
Police found frail-looking cameraman Ramel Vela and audio technician Roland Letriro late Saturday and brought them to a hospital in southern Sulu province, where they were kidnapped in June along with Jordanian Baker Abdulla Atyani, Sulu police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra said.
Atyani is believed to be held by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the jungles of Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town, about 950 km south of Manila.
“We’re so happy. We never thought we’d make it out alive,” a teary-eyed Vela said from his hospital bed, adding he and Letriro had not seen Atyani since the kidnappers separated them shortly after they were taken hostage.
Visibly thinner with overgrown hair and beards, the two were examined by doctors and given bread and water.
An unspecified amount was paid to secure their freedom, according to three security officials who have been monitoring the kidnappings. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Military officials say Abu Sayyaf militants had demanded 130 million pesos ($ 3.1 million) for the release of Atyani and his two crew members.