World Bulletin / News Desk
The Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command confirmed in a statement Thursday that the Abu Sayyaf turned Herman bin Manggak over to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel group -- which is engaged in a peace process with the government -- after negotiations.
According to the command’s spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Herman was then handed over to a joint task force in the island province of Sulu and later airlifted to Zamboanga City for turnover to the proper authorities.
"Herman was officially turned over to military custody at 12nn [noon]… and immediately taken to Camp Bautista hospital in Jolo [island] for check-up and processing,” Tan said.
“Talking to interpreters, he asked for food and relayed how govt troops nearly rescued him three times as they engaged the ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] in fierce gunbattles," he added.
Herman was seized from a Malaysian-flagged boat off the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah in early August.
Over the weekend, the Abu Sayyaf freed three Indonesian fishermen -- who were abducted off Sabah in mid-July -- after releasing Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was kidnapped from a resort on the island of Samal in September 2015 alongside two Canadians who were beheaded earlier this year.
All four men were hosted Saturday night by the MNLF’s fugitive founder, Nur Misuari.
The MNLF has been facilitating negotiations for the release of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf, which is believed to still be holding captive at least 10 foreigners and three Filipinos.
On Monday, an Indonesian negotiator had revealed expectations that the Abu Sayyaf would free a fourth national.
Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is one of two militant groups in the south to have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and MNLF-breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.