ZAMBOANGA, Philippines: Philippine troops have rescued a Vietnamese sailor held hostage for seven months by Islamist militants in the country’s south, the military said Saturday.
Hoang Vo, 28, was rescued by troops on Friday after an air strike and artillery fire on an Abu Sayyaf camp in the island of Basilan dispersed the kidnappers, regional military spokeswoman Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay said.
She said the sailor was being treated for an unspecified wound on his back.
There is no way to independently verify the military’s account of the rescue.
The Abu Sayyaf network has been kidnapping foreigners and locals for years and holding them for ransom on its remote island strongholds in the southern Philippines.
Vo was seized last November along with five other Vietnamese crew members of a vessel that was boarded by the militants off Sibago island in the southern region of Mindanao.
A statement issued by the military’s regional command based in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga said Abu Sayyaf militants are holding a total of 26 hostages, including several foreigners, in Sulu and Basilan.
The Abu Sayyaf is known to behead its hostages unless ransom payments are made.
German national Jurgen Kantner, 70, was beheaded earlier this year after the kidnappers’ demand for 30 million pesos ($600,000) was not met.
Last year, the Abu Sayyaf also beheaded two Canadian hostages.
The Abu Sayyaf, originally a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaida network, has splintered into factions, with some continuing to engage in banditry and kidnapping.
One faction led by Isnilon Hapilon has pledged allegiance to Daesh group, with members among those holding parts of Marawi, the largely Catholic nation’s most important Islamic city, where the government has launched air strikes and deployed artillery and ground forces against them.