MANILA – Three foreign hostages are now in the custody of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) after an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu, MNLF spokesperson Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla said on Wednesday.
Fontanilla declined to divulge information on the identities and nationalities of the foreigners, who were allegedly held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.
Fontanilla said he has received information that the hostages are safe and will be turned over to the government as soon as MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari returns from Egypt.
“Our people assured me that they are safe, well-protected, fed well and treated well,” he told dzMM.
Fontanilla, however, said he also received reports that other groups are interested in taking the foreigners hostage.
“May mga agam-agam lang kasi may mga balita na may mga magre-rescue sa kanila, we are just very careful,” he said, adding that the MNLF has no vested interest in the captured foreigners.
“Wala naman kaming interes diyan, except na ipakita sa taongbayan na kami ay para sa katahimikan.”
He could not confirm if Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani is one of the foreigners in MNLF’s custody.
Fontanilla said the MNLF had been negotiating with Abu Sayyaf for the past 20 days, which led to the release of two Filipino TV crew, cameraman Ramil Vela and audio technician Rolando Letrero.
He said negotiations for the release of Atyani, who was kidnapped with the two Filipinos, weren’t successful and resulted in the deadly gunfight.
According to Fontanilla, 23 members of the Abu Sayyaf were killed while 9 more were wounded in the encounter.
He said 6 Abu Sayyaf members were also captured by the MNLF.
Eleven were killed and 7 others were hurt from the MNLF side.
Fontanilla said the Abu Sayyaf camps have been taken over, forcing the terrorists to flee.
“Nasa Basilan na yata sila, nagwatakwatak na sila,” he said.
Fontanilla said the MLNF suspects that the Abu Sayyaf still has hostages in their custody.
He said the MNLF may launch another assault against the group if they return to Patikul.