INDONESIAN HOSTAGE ESCAPES FROM ABU SAYYAF

Soldiers helping Indonesian sailor Julkipli gets off a chopper.Zamboanga City, March 29, 2003 -- One of three Indonesian captives of the Abu Sayyaf escaped late Thursday and was recovered by troops in Taglibi village near Patikul town, in the island of Jolo, security officials said Friday.

"I am very happy," Julkipli told reporters at the military hospital.

Clad in violet sweatshirt and green pants, Julkipli said the bandits beat him once. "They harmed me, but it is okay. They are not bad," he said.

Julkipli was airlifted Friday by a Philippine Air Force UH1H chopper to the Southern Command and into a waiting ambulance. He was given a clean bill of health by a team of US and Philippine military doctors.

Julkipli, Muntu Winowatan Jacobus and Peter Lierrich were snatched by guerrillas in June on board the cargo ship SM88 off Jolo while on their way to deliver coal to Cebu.

Military officials said Julkipli told soldiers that Jacobus was killed in a firefight on Feb. 2 along with David Chua, a Filipino kidnapped early last year.

Lierrich is being held by the band of rebels, led by the one-armed Radullan Sahiron, who reportedly died from an unknown sickness last month.

Roland Ullah, a Filipino cook abducted along with 20 others from Sipadan resort three years ago, and four Filipino women are among the remaining six hostages.

Julkipli said they (hostages) were always held together by rebels and moved often to avoid detection.

He told the military that he was able to escape around 7 p.m. when his guards fell asleep.

"Julkipli had been running for three hours until he hit the highway," Col. Nelson Allaga, a Marine commander told reporters. "He was recovered there."

Julkipli said they ate bananas, root crops, rice and sometimes vegetables.

In San Jose, Antique, President Arroyo said the recovery of Julkipli was the result of intensive pursuit operations led by the Armed Forces.

"I said that they should neutralize the Abu Sayyaf in 90 days. So, away from the attention of media, because all your attention is on Iraq, they had been conducting their offensives in Sulu and this is one of the fruits of that offensive," she said.

Arroyo issued the 90-day ultimatum last Feb. 28.

The Indonesia government, through its embassy, expressed its gratitude for Julkipli's recovery.

"We feel so relieved of the fact that one of the Indonesian hostages managed to escape from his abductors. At the same time, we are also saddened about the news, even though it is still yet to be confirmed, that Muntu Jacobus Winowatan, died in a military encounter last February," the embassy said. The embassy said Jakarta is hoping that Lierrich would be rescued soon.

In Talipao, Jolo at least 10 Abu members were killed in fighting on Thursday.

In Zamboanga City, troops captured three Abu Sayyaf members in separate incidents early this week.

Two of them were identified as Julkipli Salim Salamudin and Al-Hadi Hailani Hadil.

The third, who was unidentified, was captured by military intelligence agents on Thursday.

They are believed to be responsible for the bomb attack in Malagutay village, Zamboanga City last year that killed a US soldier and two Filipinos and wounded seven people including a member of the US Special Forces.

Salamudin reportedly planned the Malagutay attack. Hadil was implicated in the massacre of 53 villagers from Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur in 1995.

Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya, Southern Command chief, said Salamudin and Hadil were from Jolo but have been operating clandestinely in Zamboanga city. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao Bureau)





Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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