ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines — Government troops rescued three Vietnamese and recovered the remains of another during an operation Friday morning in an island off Tawi-Tawi, security officials said yesterday.
The victims, who were all crew members of MV Giang Hai 5, were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf off Pearl Bank, Pangutaran, Sulu last Feb. 25.
Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, identified those rescued as Buy Xuan Vien, Bui Trung Duc and Nguten Quang Huy.
The corpse was that of Nguyin Huu Trong, Medina said.
Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon Jr., Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said combined forces of the Marines and navy launched a special operation following reports on the whereabouts of the hostages.
Parcon said the troops tracked down the Abu Sayyaf and rescued the victims at about 7:45 a.m. near Kang Tipayan Island in Languyan town.
They found Huu Trong dead, apparently from a lingering illness during his captivity.
“We mean to intensify our offensives to pressure the (Abu Sayyaf) bandits to yield,” Parcon said.
Medina said the naval forces transported the victims to this city for medical attention at Camp Navarro General Hospital.
Of the 17 crew members of the vessel, two were killed while attempting to escape from the bandits. Ten were rescued by the troops, while the group of Xuan Vien was forcibly taken by the bandits to mainland Sulu.
The military reported that as of this date there are seven foreigners and nine Filipinos who are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands of Sulu.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said relentless pursuit pressured the Abu Sayyaf to free its hostages.
Sobejana said there is a standing order from Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero to step up the offensive operations in crushing the Abu Sayyaf.
President Duterte skipped the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gala dinner and cultural presentation hosted by Vietnam President Quang last Friday night in Da Nang.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Alan Peter Cayetano, who represented the President during the event, said Duterte wanted to rest due to his early schedule for the APEC leaders’ retreat yesterday.
Presidential Spokesman Herminio Harry Roque Jr., however, said in a Facebook post that one of the reasons why Duterte skipped the dinner was because he was “supervising and coordinating the safe recovery of (the) Vietnamese captives.”
– With Christina Mendez
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