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5 Vietnamese hostages rescued by gov’t troops in Tawi-Tawi

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By Hader Glang

At least five Vietnamese hostages, one of them dead, were recovered by government troops in a military operation launched in Tawi-Tawi  Province on Friday.

Army Lt. General Carlito Galvez Jr., chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), announced the rescue of Buy Xuan Vien, Bui Trung Duc, and Nguten Quang Huy.

He said the fifth Vietnamese hostage identified as Huu Trong was found dead and he was recovered by troops of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao and the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi

“Huu Trong died due to a lingering illness, he succumbed to death during his captivity,” Galvez told local newsmen.

The Vietnamese nationals had been held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Tawi-Tawi for 10 months. They were crew members of the Marine Vessel Giang Hai 5 who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in February off the waters of Pearl Bank in Sulu’s Pangutaran town.

Out of the 17 crew members, two were killed during the said attack while 10 others were able to escape.

In November 2016, a separate group of 6 Vietnamese nationals were also abducted from Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf Grop beheaded two of them in July.

“Operations by our ground units continue to yield positive results as we relentlessly pursue the bandits to thwart their kidnapping ploys and rescue their victims,” said Galvez.

Galvez congratulated the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi and the Naval Forces Western Mindanao for the rescue.

As of Friday, WestMinCom spokesperson Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay said seven foreigners, including a Ducth national, and nine Filipinos remained in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

Meanwhile, Petinglay said Special Forces operatives captured two Abu Sayyaf bandits after a clash before dawn Friday in Sulu.

She said members of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion encountered with a band of militants in Barangay Lagasan Higad in Patikul that began shortly before 2 a.m.

The fighting lasted for about an hour resulting in the capture of Nadsfar Abdulla and Delson Kansiong.

The captured bandits were under the group ASG commander Idang Susukan. They are now being interrogated.

There was no report of military casualties and that operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing in the area, said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the anti-terror Joint Task Force Sulu.

The rescue of Vietnamese hostages and capture of Abu Sayya terrorists coincided with the launching of a joint maritime exercise betweeen the Philippine Navy and Royal Australian Navy to boost security along the country’s southern borders.

In an interview, Rear Admiral Rene Medina of Naval Forces Western Mindanao said the Australian navy’s HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Maitland arrived in Zamboanga City port Friday morning straight from Papua New Guinea.

Medina led local military commanders and Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar with some local council members in welcoming the Australian sailors accompanied by Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely and Defense Attaché, Capt. Bradley Ian White.

The Larrakia and Maitland, skippered by RAN Commander Mitchell Edwards and RAN Lieutenant Jonathon Little respectively, are Armidale-class patrol boats that are deployed to perform a wide variety of missions and tasks.

The joint maritime security operation is part of enhanced defense cooperation between the two countries.

According to Medina, the first leg of the actual maritime patrol will be held near the Pearl Bank off Tawi-Tawi, an area where pirates affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf group operate.

The second leg will be held between Zamboanga and the Moro Gulf.

Patrol ships BRP Dioscoro Papa and BRP General Mariano Alvarez, landing platform dock BRP Davao del Sur, and patrol craft BRP Emilio Liwanag will be deployed for the exercise.

Medina said the joint maritime exercise is an offshoot of a passing exercise between the HMAS Parramatta and BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the Sulu Sea in September.

The exercise involves four Philippine Navy ships – BRP Dioscoro Papa, General Mariano Alvarez, Davao Del Sur and Emilio Liwanag – all under Naval Task Force 61.

“Aside from enhancing the maritime cooperation with other regional navies, the training activity with Royal Australian Navy to secure the vast maritime domain of the Sulu Sea proves that the Philippine Navy particularly the Naval Forces Western Mindanao does not work alone in protecting and maintaining peace and order and stability in its area of responsibility. This upholds the strong relationship of the Philippine and Australian navies when it comes to maritime patrol and security,” Medina said in a statement.

Australia has supported Philippines’ anti-terrorism efforts and played a key role in defeating Daesh-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the siege of Marawi City.- Hader Glang




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