MANILA: Philippine police have rescued three Indonesians abducted by Abu Sayyaf militants and arrested one of the extremists in waters off the southwestern Tawi-Tawi province, security forces confirmed on Friday.
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a Daesh-affiliated militant and pirate organization active in the southwestern Sulu archipelago of the Philippines, is notorious for bombings, kidnappings for ransom, assassinations, extortion and other criminal activity.
The three Indonesians were among five kidnapped by the group from a fishing boat off Borneo in January 2020. One man was killed by the militants in September as he tried to escape.
The hostages were rescued when an ASG boat taking them to another location capsized off Tawi-Tawi’s Pasigan Island on Thursday night. Police arrived at the location in response to a distress call.
“The terrorists were fleeing the intensive military operations in Sulu, so they sailed to Tawi-Tawi, taking the captives with them,” 2nd Marine Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, who heads the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, told reporters.
Philippines armed forces identified the Indonesian men as Riswanto bin Hayono, 27, Arizal Kastamiran, 29, and Arsyad bin Dahalan, 41. A Filipino man rescued with them was identified as Sahud Salisim, alias Ben Wagas.
Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales confirmed that Salisim is an ASG member.
Another man from the capsized boat, identified as Bensal Jakare, was rescued by a passenger vessel. The military said his links with ASG have yet to be verified.
According to a joint task force report, four Indonesians were on board the capsized boat. The search for the fourth Indonesian national is continuing.
All the rescued men are undergoing custodial debriefing by the military and police, while the confirmed Abu Sayyaf member, Salisim, has been detained.