MANILA - Philippine security forces have rescued an Indonesian seen in a viral video pleading for his life, four months after he and another Indonesian were taken by Abu Sayyaf militants in waters off Pulau Gaya in Semporna, Sabah.
Mr Samsul Saguni, 40, was kidnapped from a Malaysian fishing boat on Sept 11, together with Mr Usman Yusof, 35. They were taken to the Abu Sayyaf’s hideouts in Sulu province in the Philippines.
Mr Usman managed to flee and was rescued by troops from the Marine Battalion Landing Team 3 on Dec 6.
Mr Samsul was “rescued through the efforts” of former Sulu governor Abdul Sakur Tan and soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on Tuesday (June 15), said the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
He was taken to Mr Tan’s house in Maimbung town in Sulu at around 4.30pm that day, it added in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
Mr Samsul was later turned over to Lieutenant-Colonel Alaric Avelino, commanding officer of the 41st Infantry Battalion, according to ABS-CBN News. The Indonesian was debriefed and examined.
“The medical results showed that the victim is physically healthy,” said Brigadier-General Divino Rey Pabayo, head of the 11th Infantry Division.
Brig-Gen Pabayo said Mr Samsul was set to be handed over to Indonesian officials on Wednesday.
In a video that went viral on social media, Mr Samsul was seen in a freshly dug hole, crying and pleading: “Please help, boss! Please help, boss! Please help!”
The video was purportedly sent by his captors to demand ransom from the owner of the fishing boat he had worked on, The Star Online reported.
The militants had demanded 500,000 pesos (S$12,990) for the men’s release, according to Philippine media reports.
Brig-Gen Pabayo said the Abu Sayyaf was still holding five foreigners and three Filipinos in Sulu.
The small but brutal militant group has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Though the group officially has a separatist, Islamist agenda, it has for decades capitalised on the instability in the war-torn southern island of Mindanao to generate tens of millions of dollars from piracy and ransom payments.
Since it turned kidnapping into a lucrative trade, the group has already beheaded an American, a Malaysian, two Canadians and a German.
A faction led by Filipino militant Isnilon Hapilon took part in the assault on the southern Islamic city of Marawi in May 2017.
His fighters, along with those from Marawi’s prominent Maute clan and extremists from abroad, stormed and took control of a quarter of the city for five months, in what became the Philippines’ biggest security crisis in years.
Hapilon was killed as the Marawi war drew to a close.
But other Abu Sayyaf factions that did not participate in the siege have remained active in Sulu and in their other stronghold, Jolo island.