ZAMBOANGA CITY (Apr 18) -– Andreas Notter, a Swiss national held captive by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the southern Philippine province of Sulu for more than two months was rescued early Saturday. He was rescued by police forces and civilian auxiliaries as his captors tried to take him out of a police cordon.
The Mindanao Examiner, a Zamboanga-based regional newspaper reported that policemen and armed villagers led by Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, police chief of Sulu, were guarding the area when they spotted Notter with a group of armed men. They pursued them until the gunmen were overpowered leaving the Swiss hostage behind.
In Manila, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro confirmed that Notter had indeed been freed.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said early Saturday he still had no information about the latest development.
Malacanang welcomed the rescue of Notter and lauded the Crisis Management Committee on the ICRC kidnapping for their work. Press Secretary Cerge Remonde also voiced hopes that the last of the three captives, Italian Eugenio Vagni, would be released soonest.
Notter, Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba were seized by gunmen on January 15 after inspecting a water sanitation project on Jolo Island in Sulu. On April 2, the gunmen released Lacaba.
Earlier reports have said the Abu Sayyaf faction of Albader Parad was demanding $5 million for the freedom of its two remaining captives, a claim which Parad denied in a phone conversation with Senator Gordon. According to Parad, all his group wanted was a pullout of government troops from more than a dozen villages in Jolo Island.
But Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Alexander Yano and Governor Tan both described the demand as impossible. On Friday, Yano said the military does not need the direct involvement of the U.S. to resolve the kidnapping of the remaining two ICRC workers.
He emphasized reliance on the Philippine’s own special operations troops who have been properly trained and equipped by the Americans. He also said that any assistance from the Americans concerning the hostage crisis would be limited to the collection of intelligence information and possible evacuation of wounded Filipino soldiers.