Philippine troops have rescued one of four Indonesian sailors who were abducted Monday from a tugboat near an island stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf rebels. The sailor was rescued after he escaped from his captors Wednesday, but there is no word on his shipmates.
Philippine military officials say soldiers found one of the tugboat's crewmen in a village on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometers south of Manila. The sailor wandered into the village Wednesday apparently after escaping his captors. He was one of four senior officers of the tugboat crew who were abducted Monday night when gunmen in speedboats boarded the vessel.
The tugboat was pushing a barge of coal from Indonesia to the central Philippine port of Cebu. The gunmen left six junior crewmembers on the vessel.
Philippine officials are questioning the crew in hopes of identifying the kidnappers.
Indonesia's vice-consul for southern Philippines, Johannes Manginsala, confirms the recovery of the sailor but says he has no other details. "We sent one official [to Zamboanga] to closely follow the progress of this case. Our position is that we fully support and we believe that the Philippine government and security authorities know the best way to handle this matter," Mr. Manginsala said.
The region is plagued by pirates who hide out in its numerous islands and coastal coves. But news reports said Abu Sayyaf rebels are also suspected in the incident.
Jolo is one of two island strongholds used by the guerrillas, who said they are fighting for an Islamic state in the southern Philippines but who are better known for kidnapping people for ransom.
The rebels during the past year abducted more than a hundred people, including three Americans. Most of the captives were ransomed or killed.
But the rebels lost their three remaining hostages 12 days ago in a gun battle with Philippine soldiers in neighboring Zamboanga del Norte province. Two of the hostages, American missionary Martin Burnham and Philippine nurse Ediborah Yap, were killed in the firefight. But the second American missionary, Mr. Burnham's wife Gracia, was rescued, though wounded, and has returned to her family.
Philippine authorities have since warned the rebels might seek new hostages to use as a human shield against Philippine troops. Philippine forces in recent weeks have intensified their search for remaining members of the group.