Kidnapped social worker escapes; 3 colleagues held by Abu Sayyaf
COTABATO CITY – One of four social workers abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen Sulu on Thursday actually managed to escape, police said Saturday.
Chief Superintendent Noel delos Reyes, chief of police of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Lerma Jura managed to escape when she and her three colleagues were being abducted by about 10 bandits in Barangay (village) Sinumaan (not Sinupaan as reported earlier) in the municipality of Talipao on Thursday afternoon.
“She walked for about a kilometer and sought help from village officials, who turned her over to the Philippine Marines,” Delos Reyes said.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman ordered the Sulu police provincial office and officials of Talipao to locate and rescue the four social workers. He identified three of them as Lerna Natsura, who turned out to be Lerma Jura, Roberto Sabutano and Nurhani Sikangko. The fourth victim was still unidentified, Hataman said on Friday.
The victims work at the ARMM’s Department of Social Welfare and Development and were in Talipao to conduct a survey for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) when they were seized by 10 armed men around 4 p.m. Thursday.
“Our report was that they were taken by Abu Sayyaf while doing their work,” Hataman told reporters here on Friday.
He said he had specifically ordered the police and Talipao local officials to establish contact with the group that abducted the social workers.
But Hataman said while negotiations would be allowed, no money would be involved.
“We maintain the government’s no ransom policy (but) we will negotiate for their release,” he said.
Delos Reyes said the Sulu police office was now in close coordination with local Muslim clerics there to help secure the victims’ release.
The abducted social workers were the latest addition to the growing list of Abu Sayyaf captives in Sulu.
The authorities had said that German nationals Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek, 74, and Henrite Dielen, 42, had been brought to Sulu after they were abducted off Palawan in April.
The Abu Sayyaf, a ragtag band of self-styled Islamists which gained notoriety due to its high-profile abductions, also continues to hold other foreign captives, including birdwatchers Ewold Horn, a Dutch national, Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra; and Japanese treasure hunter Mamaito Katayama.
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