ZAMBOANGA: Three Filipinos among a clutch of hostages, including at least 13 foreigners, have escaped from Abu Sayyaf militants who were holding them captive in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, police said Friday.
The three, identified as Jason Son Vailoces, Joel Adanza and Filemon Guerrero Jr., were to have been freed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) gunmen on Thursday, but their release did not go through, officials said.
The gunmen scuttled the release when they “noticed that the ransom money was fake,” regional police spokeswoman Chief Inspector Tara Leah Cuyco said.
“They were taken back to camp, but managed to escape on the same day as the gunmen performed their afternoon prayer,” she was quoted saying in a report published by BenarNews.
The trio managed to elude their captors amid a hail of gunfire, alternately hiding in bushes and running until they reached a village, where they were safely taken in by the residents, she said.
The escape coincided with a clash between the military and a 30-strong contingent of gunmen believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants, in which two soldiers and five suspects were slain elsewhere in Jolo.
In July, two Vietnamese among 15 foreigners believed to be held by the gunmen were found decapitated by the Abu Sayyaf.
Also last month, police found the decomposing remains of seven Filipinos who were kidnapped and later beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf in the island of Basilan, another stronghold of the extremists.
Abu Sayyaf militants are known for beheading their hostages unless ransom payments are made. They beheaded two Canadian hostages last year and a German captive in February.
Thursday’s daring escape came on the 81st day of fighting between government troops and a faction of the Abu Sayyaf, led by commander Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi city, which is on the southern island of Mindanao.
Hapilon is the acknowledged leader of the Islamic State in the mostly Catholic country, and his fighters are backed by militants from the local Maute group and several militants from Southeast Asia and the Middle East.