Militants still holding 25 hostages in southern Philippines: Official

January 23, 2017 8:50 pm

Troops are seen at the site of a roadside blast in the village of Matampay in Marawi City, Southern Mindanao, the Philippines, November 29, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Philippine defense chief has confirmed that more than two dozen hostages are still being held by Daesh-linked terrorists on an island in southern Philippines. 
Delfin Lorenzana told a security forum in Singapore on Monday that 25 kidnapped victims are still being kept in the southern island of Jolo, which is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militant group. 
Lorenzana stressed that the government’s strategy against was a “holistic approach.” 
The government is trying to “convince the companies and the families not to pay ransom because every time they pay ransom they make the kidnappers stronger,” the defense minister noted. 
“They have more money to distribute to the communities and they have more money to procure all the gadgets that they need – cellphones, firearms and even materials to manufacture improvised explosive devices.”
Lorenzana stated that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been under pressure to declare martial law in at least three southern islands. Many Filipinos want the president to declare martial law over South Tawi Tawi, Jolo and Basilan islands where militants operate.

This undated photo taken on October 13, 2015 from a video uploaded on YouTube shows militants in the southern Philippines. (AFP Photo)

Elsewhere in his remarks, the defense minister also said that the companies which employed two recently freed Indonesians had paid a ransom.
The Philippine military earlier said two Indonesian hostages were freed last month by militants from the Abu Sayyaf group, which is known to behead its victims if ransoms are not paid.
The two were among seven Indonesian crewmen who had been kidnapped from a tugboat sailing in waters off the southern Philippines in June 2016.
The ultra-violent terrorist group Abu Sayyaf , which pledged alliance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the summer of 2014, have also been involved in other criminal activities, including rape and drug trafficking, in what they describe as their battle for an independent province in the Philippines.
The group mainly relies on kidnapping for its finances and many say its ideological and religious claims are meant to hide its focus on the lucrative business.
The militants have been in constant clashes with Philippine forces across the troubled region in the past 25 years.
Since August last year, thousands of troops have been deployed to southern territories after President Duterte ordered a massive military operation against Abu Sayyaf. However, fierce resistance by the militants has made it difficult for the military to make any tangible breakthrough.
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