A Filipina held hostage by a notorious kidnapping-for-ransom gang in the strife-torn southern Philippines was released from captivity Friday, police said, a week after her Canadian boyfriend was beheaded by the gunmen.
Marites Flor was among four people abducted nine months ago by Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants based on remote, mountainous islands, who have earned millions of dollars from kidnappings in recent years.
Flor’s partner, Robert Hall, was beheaded after a ransom deadline lapsed last week, following a similar killing of the other Canadian hostage, John Ridsdel, in April.
Flor was freed in Sulu, a southern archipelago known as a hideout of the militants, the local police chief, Wilfredo Cayat, said.
Cayat did not give details on the circumstances of her release except that she was dropped off outside the house of local politician Abdusakur Tan on Jolo, the main island in Sulu.
Another politician from the area, Jesus Dureza, said he negotiated with the kidnappers on behalf of incoming Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte to win Flor’s release.
“She told me her captors roused her at dawn and ordered her to pack up, telling her: ‘You are going home,’” Dureza added.
Dureza later accompanied Flor on a private jet to the southern city of Davao for a meeting with Duterte, who takes office as the next Philippine president on June 30.
The fate of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was abducted along with Flor and the Canadians, remained unknown.
The four were seized in September aboard yachts at a tourist resort on Samal island, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) to the west of Sulu.
7 Indonesian sailors kidnapped at sea
Flor’s ordeal ended on the same day Indonesian authorities announced that seven Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped at sea off the southern Philippines where Abu Sayyaf is known to operate.
The crew were towing a coal barge in the Sulu sea on Monday when their tugboat was hijacked by armed groups, Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said.
Seven sailors were taken hostage in two separate attacks on the vessel around an hour apart, Marsudi added. The six other crew aboard the tugboat were left unharmed.
“The government will do everything possible to free these hostages,” Marsudi told reporters.