Philippine Marines training with US Marines. The Philippines has one of the region’s worst equipped armed forces. Source: Wikipedia
Abu Sayyaf militants have freed the three-year-old grandson of the Philippine province of Quezon’s Pitogo Mayor Richard Garban in Indanan, Sulu, in the country’s restive south.
Sulu commander Brigadier General Alan Arrojado said the captive, whose name was withheld as he is a child, was spotted “without a companion” by a Muslim villager on Sunday afternoon in the village of Buanza.
“Immediately, the concerned citizen approached the child and at the same time informed the military unit of the KV’s [kidnap victim’s] presence in the area,” said Arrojado.
The brigadier said the child was taken to Barangay Tulay, Jolo, and was turned over to the military on the island and given a medical check-up at Camp Bautista.
Efforts to contact relatives of the child in Zamboanga del Sur were underway, he said.
Arrojado did not say if a ransom was paid in exchange for the child’s release.
The brigadier said the armed forces were coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development over the custody of the child.
The authorities had contacted the boy’s family, as social workers took custody of the child in Jolo, he said.
There was no statement from the boy’s family about his release. He was kidnapped along with Zynielle Jay Garban, three, and their 17-year-old carer, Ledegie Tomarong, who was freed in July last year. Zynielle was killed after apparently being shot during a firefight between policemen and the kidnappers.
Ten Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized him on March 31 last year together with his younger brother, whose body was plucked out from the sea off Zamboanga del Sur the following month.
The rebels were reportedly looking for the owner of a bakery in Pitogo and took the three instead.
The release of the boy also coincided with the capture of an Abu Sayyaf rebel, who has been named as Haber, in Indanan on Sulu, one of five provinces in the unsettled autonomous Muslim region.
Haber alias Abu Qudama was allegedly involved in the kidnappings of 21 mostly European tourists on the upmarket Malaysian island of Sipadan in 2000.
The authorities blame Abu Sayyaf for the spate of terror attacks and kidnappings in the southern Philippines, accusing the group of organised crime rather than an ideological crusade in the name of Islam.
The group’s leadership, along with those from other militant groups, have recently pledged allegiance to Isis in a video released online.