‘Kidnapped couple subjected to psychological torture’

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    A BRITISH businessman and his Filipina wife were not physically harmed but were subjected to “psychological torture” by their Abu Sayyaf captors during their more than a month in captivity, according to the military.

    Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said the bandits threatened to kill Allan and Wilma Hyrons if ransom is not paid for their release.

    The Hyrons couple was snatched from their beach resort in Tukuran town in Zamboanga del Sur on October 4. They were later brought by their captors to Sulu, a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf. Elite Army soldiers rescued the couple in Parang, Maguindanao on Monday after a brief firefight with the bandits. The victims underwent medical check-up and debriefing after their rescue.

    “They were not (physically harmed), only psychologically tortured. They were threatened to be killed if ransom is not paid,” said Sobejana, citing results of debriefing of the couple.

    Sobejana said the Abu Sayyaf initially demanded P50 million in ransom and later lowered it to P10 million.

    “There was no ransom payment at all because the President’s no-ransom policy is clear to the British government. They (British government) also have the same policy, that’s why our search and rescue operations were relentless,” said Sobejana.

    Sobejana said the couple was flown to Manila on Monday night and presented to the British Embassy.

    During the couple’s interview, Sobejana said, the victims identified some of their captors and spoke about the areas they were brought to by the Abu Sayyaf.

    He said those named will be charged. “Their (suspects’) ultimate objective is kidnap for ransom,” he added.

    Sobejana also said relentless operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which is still holding three Indonesians in Sulu, will continue.

    “We are not going to stop until we get all of them, until we attain peace,” said Sobejana.

    There are 300 to 400 Abu Sayyaf members, mostly operating in Sulu.