AFTER failing to extract a huge ransom, Abu Sayyaf militants have freed a Filipino woman who was with two Canadian hostages beheaded by the extremists in the country’s southern islands.
Police Superintendent Junpikar Sitin says Marites Flor was abandoned by the gunmen in front of the house of Sulu provincial Gov. Abdusakur Tan before dawn Friday. She was later turned over to the military for medical checkup.
Flor was abducted with two Canadians, John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad by the ransom-seeking militants from a resort on southern Samal island in September last year. Sekkingstad remains in captivity.
Flor could provide insights into the moments before Ridsdel was beheaded by the militants in April, followed by Hall last week.
On Wednesday, Indonesian crewman were abducted in Philippine waters on Wednesday after their ship was hijacked by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants in the Sulu archipelago.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters Friday that the Indonesian government will try all options to free the hostages.
She said the government received confirmation that six of a total of 13 crew members of the tugboat that was towing a coal barge were freed with the vessel and were on their way to Indonesia.
The Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern Philippines has been blamed for previous kidnappings in the restive region.
A diplomatic source told the INQUIRER that the sailors were seized at around 11am, Wednesday. The source said the Indonesian government was prepared to hand over an average of P13 million (US$277,000) for each of the hostages.
Recently, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel in separate incidents after the deadlines for ransom demands were not met.
The source said Manila has called on the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to cease paying ransoms in a bid to stop the kidnappings.
“The problem about it [referring to kidnapping], is the Malaysians and Indonesians. If they see a problem, they throw money at the problem in the hope that the problem goes away with the money,” the source who spoke on anonymity said.
The Abu Sayyaf rebels recently received 100 million Philippine pesos (US$2.1 mil) in ransom to release four Malaysian sailors who were held hostage in the southern Philippines since April this year.
The diplomat however said he believed that Abu Sayyaf would not behead nationals from Indonesia and Malaysia “because they are fellow Muslims”, the INQUIRER reported.
Additional reporting by Associated Press