Kidnapped British businessman and his Filipina wife were finally rescued Monday morning by the military’s special forces from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu after 52 days in captivity.
The rescue of Allan Hyrons, 70, and his wife, Wilma, was a result of a three-day military operations that also resulted in the death of six ASG bandits.
The couple were recovered by the troops of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion under the 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division of the Philippine Army, after a 10-minute gunfight with their captors at Mt. Piahan, boundary of Barangays Silangkan and Taha in Parang, Sulu, around 9 a.m.
The couple were taken at gunpoint by unidentified armed men at their resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, on October 4, before being brought to different hideouts to mislead the pursuing troops.
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom), said the troops had been conducting pursuit operations for three days straight already when they finally caught up with the terrorists handling the Hyrons couple.
“Sunod-sunod na tatlong araw na engkwentro natin since they were on the run. We took advantage of it and we really pursued them,” Sobejana said.
Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the ASG was forced to hide the kidnapped victims with minimum number of guards to avoid detection.
“They were unaware that we are monitoring and have anticipated their actions,” Vinluan said.
Finally, Sobejana said a 10-minute running gunbattle between the ASG and the special forces occurred on the third day of the hot pursuit.
“[It was a] running gunbattle hanggang iniwan nila, naiwan ‘yung dalawa dahil hindi na nila kayang dalhin so they scampered away to different directions,” he stated.
Prior to this, two armed confrontations broke out between the military and the ASG handling the kidnap victims.
The initial encounters occurred at Sitio Itum, Barangay Kabbuntakas in Patikul on November 23, Saturday; and at Sitio Huton Mahablo, Barangay Silangkan in Indanan on November 24.
6 ASG MEN KILLED
The first two armed confrontations resulted in the death of six terrorists, including a certain Sibih Pisih, a subgroup leader of the ASG under Radullan Sahiron, and one Roger Sajih, also an ASG sub-leader.
Accordingly, Sibih Pisih was one of the original subgroup leaders of the ASG before the group split into the Sahiron and Hajan Sawadjaan factions.
He was in-charge of the ASG’s off-the-water kidnappings in the boundaries of Tawi-Tawi and Sabah, Malaysia. He has a pending warrant of arrest for the massacre of 22 civilians in Talipao Sulu, sometime in 2014.
Sobejana said the Hyrons couple were subjected to medical examination and custodial debriefing to ensure their well-being.
After their rescue, the couple were brought to the military detachment in Jolo, Sulu and given breakfast.
“This is a big blow to their [ASG] morale, talagang makikita natin they are demoralized so we will take advantage of that,” he said.
Continuous pursuit operations were conducted to neutralize the remaining ASG terrorists who are still on the run, Sobejana said, but he cautioned about the possibility that the group will retaliate by preying on soft targets.
He urged civilians to be more vigilant against suspicious elements.
At present, the ASG has still three Indonesian captives which are now the subject of rescue operation by the military. (Martin A. Sadongdong)