(AA) – A Malaysian man held by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group for nearly seven months has been freed by his captors following negotiations between Filipino emissaries and kidnappers.
A statement from army spokesperson Captain Rowena Muyuela on Thursday said Hua Chan Sai Chuin was released by his abductors about 11 p.m. Wednesday at Sitio Timahu in Sulu – the southern province where he was captive.
The military brushed off reports that a RM3 million ($860,000) payment of “board and lodging fee” had been made to the Abu Sayyaf before the release of Chan – a fish breeder.
Chan, 32, was taken by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from his farm at Kampung Sapong in Sabah – Malaysia’s easternmost state – June 16 and held for 177 days in Sulu.
Muyuela told The Anadolu Agency in a text message that he looked healthy despite his ordeal, and had been returned via speedboat to Malaysia.
“I have lost a lot of weight … good also,” he told The Star Online, a Malaysian-based newspaper, shortly after thanking and hugging a team of Malaysian and Filipino negotiators who brought him home.
He was later reunited with his wife who had appealed for help in securing his release after the group issued a ransom demand of RM3 million, stating they would behead Chan if a deadline was not met.
The Star Online also reported that negotiations for the release of a 26-year-old marine policeman – grabbed from Mabul island in Sabah on July 12 – are ongoing.
A ransom of RM3 mililion is understood to have been demanded, however negotiations hit a snag around 10 days ago and nearly led to a bloody gun battle, scuttling efforts to free him together with Chan, reported The Star.
The Abu Sayyaf, which holds other foreign and Filipino hostages, has been fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines since 1991.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid