MANILA: An Indonesian fisherman held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for eight months has been killed by his captors in the southern Philippines, the country’s military announced on Wednesday.
Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu commander Brig. Gen. William Gonzales said the victim was one of five Indonesians kidnapped by gunmen from the terror group in waters off Sabah, Malaysia in January and taken to Sulu where they were held captive.
The man’s body was found during a clearing operation following a gunfight between the Army 45th Infantry Battalion (45IB) and ASG in Patikul, Sulu on Tuesday.
“Our troops were in pursuit of the fleeing ASG members following an encounter when they recovered the cadaver of the slain kidnap victim,” said Lt. Col. Ruben Guinolbay, Army 45IB’s commanding officer. One ASG member was also killed during the clash.
The soldiers were scouring the ASG fighters’ withdrawal route, about 300 meters from the encounter site in Barangay Maligaya, Patikul town when they found the fisherman’s body.
Gonzales said, that based on facial recognition, an intelligence officer had identified the recovered body as one of the Indonesian hostages. The military has not yet revealed the name of the victim, as it was awaiting confirmation, however Indonesian authorities identified the dead fisherman as La Baa.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., said it appeared that during the firefight the Indonesian had tried to escape but was shot and killed by his captors.
“While running away, he was fired upon by his abductors. His body was found 300 meters from the encounter site,” Vinluan added.
He also announced the rescue of Rex Triplitt, a 64-year-old Filipino-American businessman kidnapped by suspected ASG gunmen in front of his wife in Zamboanga del Norte on Sept. 16.
Triplitt was rescued around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, following an encounter with his abductors at Sitio Banalan, Barangay Pisa Itom, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.
The military said soldiers had responded to a report of the presence of five fully armed men and one unarmed individual, believed to be Triplitt, in the area. When the troops engaged the armed men in a firefight, Triplitt reportedly found an opportunity to hide and find help. He was eventually safely recovered by government forces.