AFP rescues 3 Vietnamese hostages in Tawi-Tawi

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) — The military rescued Friday three Vietnamese sailors held captive by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Tawi-Tawi.

Vietnamese nationals Buy Xuan Vien, Bui Trung Duc and Nguten Quang Huy were recovered by the military at 7:45 a.m. near Kang Tipayan Island in Languyan.

They were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf off the waters of Pearl Bank, Pangutaran, Sulu on February 25.

Troops from the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) and the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi also retrieved the body of a fourth Vietnamese crew member, Nguyin Huu Trong, who died in captivity from a lingering illness.

The hostages have since been transported to Zamboanga City for proper disposition and medical treatment.

They were crew members of marine vessel Giang Hai 5.

Of the 17 crew aboard the ship, two were killed when they attempted to flee from the bandits, while ten others were rescued by military troops.

"Through the operations conducted by our marines and navy, we successfully recovered the Vietnamese hostages off Tawi-Tawi waters, and we mean to intensify our offensives to pressure the bandits to yield," Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Brigadier General Custodio Parcon, Jr. said in a Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) press release.

In a Facebook post early Friday evening, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte had skipped the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gala dinner as he was "coordinating safe recovery" of Vietnamese captives of the ASG. He did not specify if he was referring to the same hostages.

 

The Abu Sayyaf still holds seven foreigners and nine Filipinos hostage in Sulu.

The rescue comes as the government hosts the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Clark and Manila from November 10 to 14.

Both Vietnam and the Philippines are members of the ASEAN.

Last month, ASEAN defense ministers vowed to work more closely to combat terrorism, especially in the wake of the five-month-long war in Marawi.

According to the military, extremists from neighboring ASEAN countries like Indonesia and Malaysia had also fought alongside the ISIS-linked Maute troops in the war.

In a joint declaration in October, ASEAN defense ministers acknowledged the need for increased regional cooperation against the threat of radicalism in Southeast Asia. They said they will "identify ways to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation" within ASEAN and its partners.

READ: ASEAN defense ministers call for stronger cooperation vs. terrorism