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Abu Sayyaf frees 10 Indonesian sailors
By Manolo B. Jara May 02, 2016
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MANILA: Members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants on Sunday released 10 Indonesian crewmen of a tugboat they had abducted more than a month ago off the island province of Tawi-Tawi in restive Mindanao, according to a top police officer.

Superintendent Wilfredo Cayat, the police chief, said the militants dropped off at noon on Sunday the  Indonesian crewmen in front of the house of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan in the capital town of Jolo.

“They were brought inside (Tan’s house). They were fed. Governor Tan called me and turned over the 10 Indonesians to our custody,” Cayat confirmed.

A reliable source who requested anonymity, disclosed the militants freed the hostages after the Indonesian company that owned the tugboat had paid on Friday a $1 miliion ransom they demanded.

The tugboat with its cargo of coal was bound for Manila on March 28 when was attacked by the militants using a speedboat and took hostage its 10 Indonesian crewmen and brought them to Sulu where they operate with impunity.

Their release came barely a week after the Abu Sayyaf beheaded on April 25 Canadian John Ridsdel, a former mining executive, for his failure to pay a huge ransom for his release that drew local and international condemnation led by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who denounced it as “cold-blooded murder.”

Ridsdel was one of two Canadians and a Norwegian national were abducted by the militants, along with their Filipina companion, from a posh island resort off Davao del Sur in Mindanao in September.

The militants had demanded a total of $60 million, or $20 million each of the three hostages, for their release and threatened to kill them if their random demand was not met.

Also in Mindanao, members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) reported the release of six candidates they had abducted in Agusan del Sur province for their failure to pay fees to enable them to campaign especially in remote areas “controlled” by the insurgents.

An NPA spokesman confirmed in an interview with a local radio station the release of the six candidates who are running for reelection in the municipal council of the town of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur in the May 9 polls.

The spokesman said about 20 heavily-armed NPAs stopped and kidnapped the seven candidates who were aboard a vehicle on their way home after a campaign sortie in an “NPA held territory” on April 25.

The insurgents also shot and wounded another candidate when he tried to escape, said the spokesman but did not clarify whether their six hostages had paid the so-called “permit to campaign fees” imposed by the NPA.

However, the spokesman disclosed that before releasing the six hostages, the rebels seized at least three firearms from the bodyguards of the candidates.

Chief Inspector Sandro Santillan, the police chief of San Francisco, described the imposition of the campaign fees as “plain and simple extortion” as part of the criminal activities of the NPA to raise funds.

The NPA with about 4,000 members is the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines that has been waging a Maoist-style insurgency against the government for more than 45 years, considered the longest in Asia and the Pacific.

Military and police intelligence agents said the Maoists have become more active in the collection of the campaign fees with the upcoming May 9 election exactly eight days away as of Sunday.

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