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Muslim Militants in Philippines Free Hostages Grabbed at Sea

JOLO, the Philippines — Muslim militants in the southern Philippines on Saturday freed a South Korean captain and his Filipino crewman who were abducted three months ago from their cargo ship amid a wave of offshore kidnappings, officials said.

Members of Abu Sayyaf, a militant organization, handed over the captain, Park Chul-hong, and the crewman, Glenn Alindajao, to Moro National Liberation Front rebels, who turned them over to Philippine officials in the southern area of Jolo in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu.

The Moro rebels, who signed a 1996 peace deal with the government, have helped negotiate the release of several hostages from Abu Sayyaf, a smaller but more violent group that was blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist organization for carrying out kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

Pacific Ocean


South China Sea

Davao City

Celebes Sea

The freed hostages appeared to be healthy but were not immediately allowed to speak to reporters. Mr. Park wore a scarf, partly covering his face.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser dealing with insurgents, Jesus Dureza, flew with the two from Jolo to Davao City, the president’s hometown. The two will later be flown to Manila.

Mr. Dureza said he was not aware of any ransom being paid in exchange for the freedom of the sailors. At least 27 hostages, many of them foreign crewmen, remain in the hands of Abu Sayyaf factions, he said.

There has been persistent speculation, however, that ransoms have been paid for most of the freed hostages.

Without a known foreign source of funds, Abu Sayyaf has survived mostly on ransom kidnappings, extortion and other acts of banditry.

A confidential Philippine government threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press last year said that the organization received at least $ 7.3 million from ransom kidnappings in the first six months of 2016.

About 10 gunmen removed Mr. Park and Mr. Alindajao from their ship in October, using ropes from a speedboat to clamber up the cargo vessel off Bongao in Tawi-Tawi province, near Jolo.

The ship was on its way to South Korea from Australia, military officials said.

The militants have mostly targeted slow-moving tugboats in the busy section of the sea that borders the southern Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In December, Mr. Duterte said he told his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts that their forces could bomb fleeing Filipino militants and their kidnapping victims at sea because the hostages “are not supposed to be there.”

Source: NYT > World

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