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Friday, January 13, 2017

Abu Sayyaf rebels free kidnapped Korean, Filipino sailors

A photo released by Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza shows the freed Abu Sayyaf hostages - South Korean ship captain Park Chul Hong and Filipino sailor Glen Alindajao on Saturday, January 14, 2017 in Davao City. (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY – Abu Sayyaf rebels on Saturday freed a South Korean and a Filipino sailor they kidnapped off Tawi-Tawi province in the restive Muslim autonomous region after a private negotiation in southern Philippines.
The hostages - Park Chul Hong and Glen Alindajao – were released by rebels in the southern island of Sulu and fetched by Secretary Jesus Dureza, the presidential peace adviser. Dureza arrived in Davao City with the hostages on board a private jet.
The duo was kidnapped in October after rebels hijacked the cargo ship Dongbang Giant while it was sailing near the Sabah border. Dureza did not give any statement and security officials declined to say whether ransom had been paid in exchange for the freedom of the sailors.
The Abu Sayyaf had originally demanded at least P50 million for the safe release of the hostages, but the military is expected to say that no ransom had been paid to the rebel and that the hostages were released because of the ongoing operations in Sulu.
Just recently, Abu Sayyaf rebels tried, but failed to hijack a Filipino cargo ship while sailing off Basilan near Zamboanga City. The gunmen, on board two speedboats, attacked the vessel Ocean Kingdom - manned by over 2 dozen sailors - off Sibago Island. The ship was heading to Davao City to deliver its cargo when it came under fire. It managed to escape from the attack. 
It was the second cargo ship attacked by rebels off Basilan since November last year. Abu Sayyaf fighters also hijacked a Vietnamese cargo ship and seized 6 crewmen, including its captain in a daring attack November 11 that left one sailor wounded.
The ship, MV Royal 16, was sailing off the province when 10 gunmen on a speedboat intercepted it off Sibago Island and boarded the vessel and abducted the crewmen. Another Filipino cargo ship, MV Lorcon Iloilo, passing near Basilan rescued the wounded sailor and provided him first aid and evacuated to a hospital in Zamboanga City. 
The Abu Sayyaf is also holding over a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors in the restive region. 
President Rodrigo Duterte has – for the second time – ordered military forces to finish off the rebels and other jihadist or terrorist groups tied to the Islamic State. Thousands of army troops were deployed in Mindanao to fight the Abu Sayyaf and other allied groups. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has set a deadline to destroy the rebels – 6 months.
Military chief Eduardo Año, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, said at least 4 dozen army battalions, have been tapped to carry out Duterte’s order, who was perceived by some as soft on rebels, but hard on drug users.
“Not in our history there has been that massive deployment of our troops,” Año said in a television interview, adding, the goal of the new government offensive is to wipe out these Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups. Año said 51 battalions were deployed in the restive region. “We are going to make sure that our campaign against the Abu Sayyaf will be quick,” he said.
Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Ansarul Khilafah, Khilafah Islamiyah Movement, Al-Khobar Group, including so-called rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, among others, also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in an effort to establish a caliphate in Mindanao. These groups operate in the troubled Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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