From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 28): Abu Sayyaf dumped Malaysian hostages to escape army—sources
An overwhelming military presence in the rugged hilly jungle around a Jolo village forced notorious Abu Sayyaf gunmen to abandon the last three of their five Malaysian hostages.
Intelligence sources believe that the gunmen, led by Abu Rami @Muammar Askali decided to leave the three sailors when the military started closing in on them.
The group has been terrorizing the southern Philippines with murders, kidnaps and beheadings including that of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then, 39, in November.
The source said it became apparent to the gunmen that they were making no headway in getting ransom money for the Malaysians whom they have held since abducting them from their tugboat off Dent Haven waters in Lahad Datu on July 18, last year.
READ: 3 more Malaysians freed by Abu Sayyaf in Sulu – Army
The three Fandy Bakran, 27, Mohd Jumadil Rahim 24, and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 33, looked frightened and exhausted but were otherwise all right when the soldiers found them in Panglima Estimo in Jolo at about 11.30pm on Sunday.
“We believe the hostages had become a liability and were too heavy a baggage for them as they were fleeing the military."
“Having got nothing from their families, they just decided to leave them,” the source said.
The gunmen had initially demanded P60 million but reduced it to P30 million for the release of the five Malaysian hostages. They were ready to go down further but there was no progress as the families could not raise that amount, the source said.
However, other Jolo-based sources claimed that Moro National Liberation Front and Sulu Governor Sakur Tan were involved in the negotiations for the release of the three whose freedom came three days after two other sailors Abd Rahim Summas, 62, and Tayudin Anjut, 42, were rescued on Thursday in Jolo.
The intelligence sources said the large military presence in the area was in line with orders of President Rodrigo Duterte who wanted some 30 foreign and Filipino hostages freed by eliminating the Abu Sayyaf.
READ: Duterte warns Abu Sayyaf: I will eat you alive …
In Zamboanga City, Philippines military Western Mindanao Command said in a statement that the rescue of the three was due to unrelenting military operations as well as information from the two earlier released victims.
The three other sailors have been taken to the military hospital in Jolo and will be debriefed. They were to be taken to Zamboanga City before being flown back to Kuala Lumpur via Manila.