Vietnamese fishermen rescued from Abu Sayyaf

By Roel Pareño and Ian Nicolas Cigaral

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Vietnamese Marine Vessel Giang Hai as photographed in 2011 by Shipspotting. Its crew members were abducted by Abu Sayyaf bandits in February 2017.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Four Vietnamese fishermen—one of them found dead—were recovered from Islamist militants by Philippine authorities Friday.

Brig. Gen. Custodio Parcon Jr., Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said his combined forces from marines and navy launched a special operation following reports on the whereabouts of the hostages.

Parcon said the troops were able to track down the Abu Sayyaf bandits and conducted the rescue at 7:45 a.m near Kang Tipayan Island in Languyan town.

Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, identified the rescued victims as Buy Xuan Vien, Bui Trung Duc and Nguten Quang Huy.

The fourth victim, who died before the rescue, was identified as Nguyin Huu Trong.

"Through the operations conducted by our marines and navy, we successfully recovered the Vietnamese hostages off Tawi-Tawi waters, and we mean to intensify our offensives to pressure the bandits to yield," Parcon said.

Medina said the naval forces immediately transported the rescued victims to Zamboanga City for proper medical attention at Camp Navarro General Hospital.

At a press conference in Da Nang, Vietnam on Saturday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed the recovery of Vietnamese sailors kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern province of Sulu.

No ransom was paid, Roque said.

“I can confirm that the fishermen are currently in the custody of the Philippine Navy and that they are being debriefed and they will soon be seen by Vietnamese authorities,” Roque said.

The Philippine government expresses their condolences and sympathies to family of the fourth Vietnamese fisherman who has been found dead,” he added.

According to the Palace official, President Rodrigo Duterte himself oversaw the rescue of the Vietnamese fishermen, forcing the chief executive to skip a gala dinner hosted by Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang for Asia-Pacific leaders.

“It was important for the Philippine President in fact to supervise the recovery efforts,” Duterte’s spokesman said.

“He (Duterte) was being informed already of developments,” he added.

The victims, who were all crew members of Marine Vessel Giang Hai 5, were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf bandits off the waters of Pearl Bank, Pangutaran, Sulu on Feb. 25, 2017.

Of the 17 crew members boarding the said vessel, two were killed while attempting to escape from the Abu Sayyaf. Ten were rescued by the troops, while the group of Xuan Vien was forcibly taken and transported by the bandits to mainland Sulu.

The military reported as of this date, there are still 7 foreigners and 9 Filipinos who are still held by the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands of Sulu.

READ: Vietnamese sailor rescued from SayyafRody threatens to eat executioners of Vietnamese sailors

The Abu Sayyaf is a small violent group known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made. It has been investing the profits of its business in fast boats and modern weapons

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Ian Cigaral reported from Manila.

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