A Vietnamese crewmember kidnapped from the bulk carrier Royal 16 last November has escaped and been rescued by military forces in the Philippines.
Do Trung Hieu, along with five others, was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf terrorists after the 5,610dwt Vietnamese bulk carrier was boarded by 10 armed men off Sibago Island in the Philippines. The abductees included the master, the deck officers, the bosun and an A/B.
Hieu, 33, is the second seafarer to be rescued without ransom being paid. Hoang Vo, 22, escaped from his captors in June. The bodies of another two of the crew were found decapitated in July, and one other was reportedly killed by gunfire, leaving the whereabouts of one seafarer unknown.
“The rescue was a result of the maximized conduct of intelligence operations and the successful airstrike mission launched by our troops on the ground,” said task force group commander Col. Juvymax Uy. “Do Trung Hieu was rescued by troops as the bandits were forced to leave their stronghold, which was being targeted and overrun by our operating troops.”
The Philippines military says that 18 hostages remain in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in the southern region of the country, 14 of whom are foreigners.
Abu Sayyaf formed in the 1990s with money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. The militants have divided into factions with one, that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, battling security forces since May in Marawi, the largely Catholic nation's leading Islamic city.
Last week, the Philippines military killed Salvador Muktadil, an infamous Abu Sayyaf leader linked to several high-profile abductions, but the militants continue to occupy parts of the southern city despite an on-going U.S.-backed military offensive. As of Sunday, 583 militants, 129 soldiers and 45 civilians have been killed, and dozens are believed to be held hostage. Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire southern region of the nation under military rule. The U.S. and Australia have been providing intelligence help, and Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have vowed to intensify efforts to stop the spread of terrorists across regional borders.