Swiss man kidnapped in 2012 rescued in Philippines: military

6th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

A Swiss man kidnapped by Islamic militants in the southern Philippines nearly three years ago was rescued on Saturday as soldiers attacked his abductors in a remote jungle, the military said.

Lorenzo Vinciguerra ran away from the Abu Sayyaf gunmen during the clash on the southern island of Jolo, and was picked up by the troops, national military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla told AFP.

"He found an opportunity to escape because of the running gunbattle with our troops," Padilla said.

However a Dutch man who was abducted with Vinciguerra, Ewold Horn, had been unable to run away and was believed to still be held captive, according to local military commander Colonel Alan Arrojado.

Arrojado said his troops, acting on a tip, had tracked the Abu Sayyaf gunmen in thick jungle near Patikul, a town on Jolo that is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.

"It was in the jungle, in the darkness. I sent a message to the Scout Rangers that they should not shoot randomly. Sure enough, we encountered them," Arrojado told AFP.

Arrojado said Vinciguerra told the military later that Horn had been unable to run due to a back injury.

He said his troops were still combing the area, a lawless region nearly 1,000 kilometres south of the capital of Manila, in hopes of finding the group holding Horn.

- Birdwatchers -

Vinciguerra and Horn were on an expedition to photograph rare birds on the remote Tawi-Tawi island group in the southern Philippines when they were abducted by unknown gunmen and turned over to the Abu Sayyaf.

At the time of their abductions, Vinciguerra was reported to be aged 47, and Horn was 52.

The Abu Sayyaf, a loose band of a few hundred militants founded with seed money from Al Qaeda, has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.

These have included the bombing of a ferry in Manila in 2004 in which more than 100 people died, and repeated kidnappings of foreigners in the southern Philippines who are usually ransomed off for huge amounts.

Many foreign governments warn their citizens against travelling to the Tawi-Tawis and other islands in the southern Philippines that are regarded as strongholds for the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants.

The Abu Sayyaf claims it is fighting to establish an independent Islamic homeland in the Muslim populated south of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

In July, a video appeared on Youtube in which one of the Abu Sayyaf's leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremists who have taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

But local authorities regard it mostly as a non-idealogical band of criminals concerned mostly with the lucrative business of kidnapping for ransom.

It is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, which has provided military assistance and training to Filipino troops to hunt down the group.

Although the Abu Sayyaf usually keep its foreign captives alive to secure the ransoms, the militants often behead their Filipino captives.

In one rare murder of a foreigner, the militants beheaded American hostage Guillermo Sobero in 2001.

The Abu Sayyaf in October released two Germans they had held captive for six months.

German and Philippine authorities refused to say if a ransom had been paid to secure their release.

But the Abu Sayyaf later posted a video on Facebook showing money which they said was the full 250 million pesos ($5.7 million) they had demanded for the Germans.

The military says the Abu Syyaf's ranks have fallen from a few thousand to only about 400, as many of its leaders have been killed or captured in recent years.

But the Abu Sayyaf continues to replenish its forces from among the impoverished Muslim residents of the southern islands, paying them with the proceeds of its criminal activities.

© 2014 AFP

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