MANILA: Philippine troops rescued a British businessman and his wife who were taken by armed men from their beach resort last month and held captive in the hinterlands of the Sulu province by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), officials told Arab News on Monday.
Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) commander, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, said Alan Hyrons and his wife, Wilma, were safely rescued shortly before 8 a.m. on Monday from Mt. Piahan, Parang, Sulu.
The couple were kidnapped on Oct. 4 by gunmen at the Hyrons Beach Resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur.
Their rescue follows days of relentless operations against the ASG. “It was a chain of events, three days of continuous clashes. So, they were on the run and we took advantage of it, we did a hot pursuit,” Sobejana said.
“It was a convergence of efforts among our forces on the ground, we have the army, the marines and of course supported by our assets,” he added.
Sobejana said that, on Sunday, there was a raging gunbattle which lasted for about 10 minutes. Eventually, members of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion under the 11th Infantry Division (11ID) managed to extract the duo who were left behind after their captors fled.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, commander of the 11ID, said the ASG was forced to keep the abductees with a limited number of guards to avoid being detected after a series of encounters with government forces.
Vinluan added that the militants “were driven to a designated constriction area” as a result of the continuous military operations.
“Our troops were able to close in and engaged them in a firefight. Overwhelmed by our forces, they withdrew from the area, allowing our soldiers to rescue the couple,” the official said.
Maj. Arvin Encinas, Wesmincom spokesperson, said no ransom was paid to the militants.
Encinas identified the Jolo-based ASG sub-leader who led the group that took the hostages as “Raden Abu.”
He belongs to the ASG faction under Hadjan Sawadjaan, who has declared himself the “emir” of Daesh in the Philippines, but has not been publicly recognized by the terror group’s core command.
The Wesmincom spokesman added that the Hyrons were abducted from their beach resort by ordinary criminal elements who passed them on to the ASG.
Before being taken to the jungles of Sulu, Encinas said the couple were kept for a while in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
“With the help of members of our community who have been providing the military information on the location of the victims and of course our intelligence builds up, we were able to monitor and anticipate the actions of their abductors.
“That’s why there were a series of encounters with the ASG over the past few days, which were part of the search and rescue operations for the Hyrons couple,” Encinas said.