15 rebels of group holding 5 hostages surrender

AFP, The Straits Times, 11 October 2000

JOLO—Fifteen gunmen belonging to a Muslim extremist group holding five hostages surrendered yesterday as the Philippine military stepped up an assault in southern Jolo island to rescue the captives.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels surrendered unconditionally in a village near Talipao town, in central Jolo, according to Colonel Romeo Tolentino, a senior official of the rescue operation for the hostages—an American, a Filipino and three Malaysians.

The gunmen told the army they were seaweed farmers who had been enticed to join the Abu Sayyaf by promises of high salaries.

Abu Sayyaf leaders are believed to have raised millions of dollars in ransoms from a five-month kidnapping spree in Malaysia and Jolo that involved Western tourists, journalists, and local residents.

The surrender came a day after the military unleashed a torrent of mortar fire and rained bombs on suspected rebel positions near Talipao, where Abu Sayyaf remnants led by senior leader Galib Andang were spotted recently with the three Malaysian hostages.