Kidnapped US boy's relative escapes in Philippines

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2011 4:37 AM
Kidnapped US boy's relative escapes in Philippines

The Filipino relative of a kidnapped American boy escaped Sunday from al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, who have held them for four months in a southern Philippine jungle, the army said.

Romnick Jakaria dashed to freedom when special Filipino army forces managed to get near an Abu Sayyaf lair near mountainous Sumisip town in Basilan province and alarmed the militants, army Col. Ramon Yogyog said.

The 19-year-old Jakaria went to an army outpost and was undergoing questioning, he said.

Jakaria and his Filipino-American aunt, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, and her 14-year-old American son were kidnapped July 12 while they were vacationing with relatives on an island near southern Zamboanga city.

Abu Sayyaf militants last month freed Lunsmann, whose son remains in captivity.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has said that the kidnappers had talked with Lunsmann's family in the United States and at one time allowed her to talk on the phone as proof that she was alive.

The U.S. and Philippine governments did not pay any ransom for her release, Robredo said, but added he was unaware if any private group paid for her freedom.

Ransom kidnappings have long been a problem in the impoverished region and are blamed mostly on the Abu Sayyaf, a group also notorious for beheadings and bombings, and its allied outlaws.

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The Abu Sayyaf was founded on Basilan in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a violent Muslim insurgency that has been raging for decades. U.S.-backed offensives have weakened the group, which is blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization, but it remains a key security threat.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is estimated to have about 380 fighters, still holds an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese convert to Islam, along with a number of Filipino hostages.