Troops rescue Briton, wife during 20-minute battle with Abus
PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Surk Philippines — After almost two months in Abu Sayyaf captivity, British Allan Arthur Hyrons and his Filipino wife were rescued on Monday during a clash between the bandits and soldiers in Parang town, Sulu province.
Hyrons and his wife, Wilma, were able to run toward the government forces while their captors were under heavy fire during the 20-minute encounter near Mt. Piahan in Barangay Kaha at 8 a.m., said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, head of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
“The [bandits] scampered to different directions and the couple hurriedly ran for their lives,” Sobejana said.
The military had been pursuing the bandits in the past two weeks, resulting in the death of some of them, Sobejana said.
Kidnapped at resort
Four unidentified men who spoke Tausug seized the Hyronses on Oct. 4 from their beach resort at Barangay Alindahaw in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur province. They dragged them into a motorized banca, according to a resort worker.
Rosalie Decierdo, who was in the store at the compound of Hyrons Beach Resort when the couple arrived on board their red multicab, said she saw a man wearing a cap approach them. Three other gunmen followed him.
“I was puzzled because [the man] took my master (Hyrons) and three other people came and dragged him away. I ran to my husband for help,” Decierdo recalled.
She said the couple “were not able to speak” and were brought to the shore.
Decierdo said two of the kidnappers checked in at the resort on Oct. 3 and occupied a cottage. The other two joined them on the afternoon of Oct. 4, she said.
Gov. Victor Yu of Zamboanga del Sur pledged a P1-million reward to anyone who could identify the kidnappers and pinpoint their whereabouts.
On Oct. 6, authorities circulated an image of a “person of interest” caught in a closed-circuit television camera at a grocery store in Tukuran.
The man, wearing a cap and glasses, was carrying a bag inside the store. Police said he was the “person of interest” after investigators recovered a receipt from the store at the resort.
Police placed the entire province, especially the coastal towns, on full alert. On Oct. 8, authorities released three images and facial composites of the suspects.
The military said the captors had been demanding ransom in exchange for their captives’ freedom.
Almost a week before the Hyronses were rescued, government troops killed six Abu Sayyaf bandits in several clashes on the island.
The first encounter occurred on Nov. 23 in the village of Kabuntakan in Patikul town. Soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion killed an Abu Sayyaf bandit identified only as Jailed. Five soldiers were wounded.
An Associated Press report said the firefight erupted on Friday near Patikul, resulting in the death of a “high-value” but little-known Abu Sayyaf commander, Talha Jumsah.
Jumsah acted as a key link of the Islamic State group to local jihadists and helped set up a series of deadly suicide attacks in Sulu this year.
Another firefight left five militants dead and two government troops wounded on Sunday in the village of Silangkan, also in Patikul, according to Col. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of 1102nd Infantry Brigade.
Patrimonio said among the five bodies recovered during the clash was believed to be that of Sibih Pisih, allegedly involved in Abu Sayyaf kidnappings along the boundaries of Tawi-Tawi province and Sabah, Malaysia.
Pisih had a pending warrant of arrest in connection with the massacre of 22 civilians in Talipao, Sulu, in 2014.
Monday’s clash involved members of the Army’s 2nd Special Forces Battalion and about 20 Abu Sayyaf members led by a certain Raden Abu.
According to Westmincom commanders, the rescued couple were undergoing medical checkup and custodial debriefing.--WITH AN AP REPORT
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