2 Philip­pine coast guard men es­cape ex­trem­ists


Two Philip­pine coast guard per­son­nel who were threat­ened with be­head­ing es­caped from their Abu Sayyaf ex­trem­ist cap­tors when hun­dreds of troops stormed the mil­i­tants’ jun­gle base in the coun­try’s south, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

Gov­ern­ment forces at­tacked the base on Wed­nes­day in an at­tempt to res­cue the two kid­napped coast guard per­son­nel and other hostages in a moun­tain­ous area in Sulu province, spark­ing a clash in which up to 15 gun­men may have died, Army Brig. Gen. Alan Ar­ro­jado said, adding there has been no mil­i­tary ca­su­al­ties.

The two coast guard per­son­nel man­aged to es­cape dur­ing the two-hour gun­bat­tle, he said.

“They told me by phone that the mil­i­tants pan­icked and fled in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions af­ter see­ing that the army had come so close and had be­gun the as­sault,” Ar­ro­jado told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone from Sulu.

The two coast guard per­son­nel were kid­napped along with a vil­lage leader in south­ern Zamboanga del Norte province in May. They were later taken to an Abu Sayyaf jun­gle base in Sulu and shown blind­folded in a video while a knife was held to the neck of one of the hostages.

The vil­lage leader was be­head- ed last week and the mil­i­tants threat­ened to kill the two coast guard hostages if a ran­som was not paid.

One of the coast guard of­fi­cers, Rod Pa­gal­ing, said he was wor­ried about also be­ing be­headed.

“When gun­fire rang out as close as 15 me­ters from us, I thought it was my op­por­tu­nity to sur­vive so I ran away in the con­fu­sion,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press from a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal in Sulu.

A num­ber of other hostages, in­clud­ing two Malaysians, are be­lieved to be held in the same area. A Dutch bird watcher kid­napped nearly three years ago is be­lieved to be held in Sulu by another Abu Sayyaf fac­tion.

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