Friday, October 2, 2020

Security forces lauded for rescuing kidnapped Zambo man

PAGADIAN CITY – Military and police commanders lauded security forces who recovered a Filipino farmer kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf following a firefight with his guards in the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte.

Military photos released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner show rescued Filipino farmer Rex Triplitt with security commanders. 

Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the 64-year old Rex Susulan Triplitt (previously reported by the police as Triplet) was “rescued” last week by members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion in the village called Pisa Itom in Sirawai town following a clash with five gunmen. There were no casualties on both sides. 

He said soldiers were sent to the area following reports that Triplitt was being held by gunmen in the village. “While conducting combat operations against the perpetrators of Rex Triplitt, troops of the 42nd Infantry Battalion encountered five armed men (and a firefight ensued),” Vinluan said, adding, “we are happy to inform the public that our operating troops successfully rescued abducted farmer, Rex Triplitt.” 

“Based on the initial report from the ground, the five (gunmen) are members of the Sulu-based Daesh Inspired Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group under Injam Yadah,” said Brig. Gen. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade. 

But Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, commander of the 1st Infantry Division and head of the anti-terror Joint Task Force ZamPeLan, said Triplitt managed to escape during the fighting and sought help from villagers. 

“Our troops were acting on information of the presence of five fully-armed men and one unarmed individual, believed to be Mr. Triplitt, in their community. When the five engaged with the operating troops, Mr. Triplitt found an opportunity to hide and ask for help,” he said. 

Brig. Gen. Jesus Cambay Jr., the regional police chief, said right after Triplitt’s abduction, he mobilized the Task Group “Triple S-B” under Task Force Pink Panther to conduct coastal and riverine patrolling and coordinated with the Coast Guard and military counterparts to ensure the kidnappers will not escape with their captive. 

“For continuous 14 days of hot pursuit, victim’s abductors felt the pressure since all routes of escape have been sealed off by our police and military. When they encountered our operating troops, they got no option but to abandon the victim and run for the safety. We lauded the efforts of our joint security forces that led to a mission accomplished,” Cambay said.

Police said four masked gunmen seized Triplitt on September 16 after stopping him and his family while returning home on a motorcycle in a village in the outskirts of Sirawai town. It said the men, armed with rifles and handguns and all clad in camouflage uniform, abducted the farmer, but his wife and son managed to run away and sought help from authorities. 

The Western Mindanao Command also released a statement from Triplitt, who narrated how he escaped from the kidnappers.

“Habang naglalakad kami, ako at yung mga rebelde, una tatlo tapos ako at yung dalawa sa likod, biglang may bumaril, tapos nagbarilan na. Nagtago ako tapos pinakinggan ko, ang barilan huminto sandali tapos volume na naman ang fire, dumapa ako. Pagkatapos narinig ko, may nagsalita ng Tagalog. Sabi niya sir dito, positive dito Sir. Nagsalita ako, sabi ko Sir hindi ako, kidnap victim po ako. Doon na, ang mga military, pagtingin nila sa mukha ko, positive daw, ako daw yung nire-rescue. Hinawakan ako ng military at sabi niya Tay huwag ka munang tumayo. Sumigaw siya ng covering fire, at nagbarilan na ulit, dinala na nila ako palayo at kino-cover talaga nila ako,” Triplitt said.

He also thanked the soldiers and the police and all those who were involved in recovering him alive. “Salamat talaga sa Philippine Army, nasagip ang buhay ko. Salamat talaga sa gobyerno dahil nabuhay ako ngayon dahil sa kanilang operation, na-rescue nila ako. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat, Philippine Army, police at sa lahat ng tropa ng gobyerno. Mabuhay po kayong lahat,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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