Abu Sayyaf hostage rescued

    1119

    GOVERNMENT forces rescued a Filipino-American kidnap victim after a firefight with his Abu Sayyaf captors in Sirawai town in Zamboanga del Norte yesterday morning, or two weeks after the victim›s abduction.

    Rex Susulan Triplitt, 62, was not hurt during the rescue operation, said Capt. Clint Antipala, spokesman of the Army›s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur.Earlier reports said Triplitt, a farmer, was mistaken for a wealthy Fil-Am by the kidnappers.

    Antipala said troops from the Army›s 42nd Infantry Battalion clashed with five Abu Sayyaf members guarding Triplitt at around 10:20 a.m. in Barangay Pisa Itom.

    The kidnappers fled after a brief firefight, with an undetermined number of casualties. No one was reported killed or injured on the government side, he said.

    Triplitt was aboard a motorcycle with his wife, Celsa, heading for their home in Barangay Piacan in Sirawai town when intercepted by men in camouflage in Barangay Tapayanan, on September 16. His wife managed to escape and reported the kidnapping to authorities.

    Maj. Gen. Gene Ponio, 1st ID commander, said information provided by residents helped the military trace the whereabouts of Triplitt and the kidnappers.

    «When the five engaged with the operating troops, Mr. Triplitt found an opportunity to hide and ask for help,” said Ponio.

    Brig. Gen. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Brigade, said pursuit operations against the fleeing kidnappers are ongoing.

    Nicolas thanked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front «for the assistance and support extended throughout the course of operation.» He did not say the specific assistance given by the two groups.