MANILA: A Mindanao mayor has been freed by his abductors believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who held him hostage for seven months after paying a ransom of about $25,000 in cash, police and family members reported on Tuesday.
Chief Superintendent Napoleon Estilles, the regional police commander, said Mayor Jeffrey Lim, 37, of Salug town, Zamboanga del Norte province had a pre-dawn reunion with his family on Tuesday following his release.
Estilles refused to confirm whether a ransom was paid, citing an existing government policy against such payments to kidnappers.
However, Lim’s father, also a former mayor of Salug, confirmed the family paid a $25,000 ransom to the abductors for the release of his son who was abducted by at least 10 armed men on April 2.
Lim’s father likewise confirmed the family hired a private individual whom he did not identify to negotiate with the abductors for his son’s release.
Lim and his wife were having dinner in a restaurant in Salug April 2 when he was kidnapped by 10 armed men posing as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation.
From Salug, police said the abductors brought Lim to the neighbouring island province of Basilan, a known stronghold of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists.
Police suspected the same group was behind the kidnapping of a former Australian soldier Warren Richard Rodwell who has yet to be freed after he was forcibly taken from his house in the town of Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay province on Dec.5.
Based on family accounts, meanwhile, the abductors released Lim to the custody of the private negotiator in Basilan after receiving the $25,000 ransom.
From Basilan, Lim took a speedboat, which brought him to one of the coastal “barangay” (village) in Zamboanga City where he had a reunion with his family about 3am on Tuesday.
Also in Mindanao, police reported that a 57-year-old man was found dead inside an inland resort in Davao del Norte province where one of the major attractions is a crocodile farm.
Inspector Zosimo Jose, the deputy police chief, said the mangled body of the victim, identified as Sorbelo Sonago, was found late on Friday night inside a man-made lagoon for the crocodiles at the resort located in the town of Santo Tomas.