Sayyafs free 4 Malaysian sailors
SULU – Abu Sayyaf rebels in southern Philippines have freed four kidnapped Malaysian tugboat crewmen last week following a series of private negotiations, reports said.
It said the four men – Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, – were spirited out of Sulu province after rebels handed them over to unidentified Filipino negotiators.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped the crewmen of tugboat MasFive 6 at sea in Semporma on April 2 and released a photo of the hostages six days later as proof of life.
The photo, which had been uploaded on Facebook, showed the captives squatting and one of them was holding a piece of paper with the word “Victor Troy” and the date “April 8, 2016” written on it.
They were believed kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf commanders Hatid Hajan Sawajaan and Alhabsi Misaya, a former member of the larger group Moro National Liberation Front.
It was not immediately known if ransoms were paid for their freedom, but the Abu Sayyaf had demanded 18 million Malaysian ringgits for the safe release of the hostages who are all natives of Sarawak. The military’s Western Mindanao Command and the regional police did not issue any statement on the release of the Malaysians.
Philippine authorities have failed miserably to stop cross-border kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf in the oil-rich state of Sabah.
Just before the May 9 national elections, two Filipino military generals were sacked for failing to stop the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings inside Sabah. The Abu Sayyaf had in the past beheaded a Malaysian hostage in southern Philippines and killed a maritime policeman in a raid on a popular resort in Sabah.
Because of the kidnappings, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said they have stopped the decades-old barter trade activity in Sandakan and other east coastal towns there. The closure of the border immediately halted the trans-shipment trade of petroleum and gas products from Sabah to the southern Philippines.
Musa also imposed a maritime curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in seven coastal districts – from Beluran to Tawau. And he also ordered security forces to seize any foreign motorized boats in Sabah waters. He said security forces would also give protection to merchant boats sailing in high-risk areas in Sabah, particularly near the Philippine border.
He also shelved a propose ferry services – to start in May – between Kudat in Sabah and Palawan province in the Philippines, adding, the strict measures reflected Sabah government’s resolve to rid the east coast of the menace posed by kidnap-for-ransom groups based in southern Philippines, according to Malaysian media.
Abu Sayyaf jihadists released a photo dated April 8 of four Malaysian hostages Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, who were kidnapped April 2 in Semporna, Sabah. The photo was uploaded on Facebook. The hostages have been freed on Wednesday, June 6, 2016, in Sulu province.