MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Malaysian man has escaped from al-Qaida-linked militants who held him for nine months and told Philippine police his cousin died of an illness in captivity, a police official said Tuesday.
Officers on patrol saw the man walking in a village in Indanan township early Tuesday, Sulu provincial police chief Abraham Orbita said by telephone from the provincial capital, Jolo.
He said Chong Wei Jie, 25, told officers he had escaped three days earlier.
"According to him he was able to escape when his shackles loosened up and he fled until he came to the village of Pasil in Indanan," Orbito said.
Chong told police his cousin, 33-year-old Chong Wei Fei, died on April 8. "He said he saw his cousin's body shaking and then stop breathing," Orbito said.
The former hostage was weak and skinny, sported long hair and had grown a moustache, he said.
Orbito said Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized the Chongs from a palm oil plantation in Malaysia's Sabah state near Sulu in November. Malaysian media have reported that Chong was the plantation's assistant manager and his cousin was the manager.
He said their families were unable to pay a ransom of 10 million pesos ($230,000) that later was lowered to 2 million ($46,000).
Abu Sayyaf is notorious for beheading hostages, bomb attacks and ransom kidnappings. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, which has provided arms and training to the Philippine military to wipe out the group.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen in June seized two Filipino-Algerian sisters and filmmakers in Sulu's Patikul township. They are also holding a Jordanian journalist and two Europeans.