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KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 ― Abu Sayyaf released the four Malaysian hostages due to pressure from local communities as they were struggling with the skyrocketing price of goods, an anti-kidnapping activist said.
According to Prof Octavio Dinampo, residents living in two provinces in Southern Philippines relied heavily on barter trade with Sabah, an activity that had to be halted after Putrajaya imposed a ban some two months ago when the four men were kidnapped.
“Jolo island anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said the local communities had been pressuring the gunmen to release the tugboat crewmen.
“Octavio said prices of commodities ― from rice to fuel ― more than doubled after the decades-old barter trade was stopped on April 6, and the local community leaders had started pressuring the gunmen to hand over the hostages,” The Star Online reported today.
Octavio explained that the price of daily essentials like rice more than doubled since the ban, with a 20kg bag now costing RM87.
He added that the militants were also eager to strike a deal as they were faced with looming Philippine military operations.
“The Abu Sayyaf gunmen under the command of Majan Sahinjuan alias Apo Mike had been moving their four captives in the mountainous jungles between the Indanan and Patikul over the past two months to avoid detection by authorities,” Octavio was quoted as saying.
The Philippine military has confirmed the release of the four hostages namely Wong Teck Kang, 31 and Wong Teck Chii, 29; their cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 together with an unrelated friend Wong Hung Sing, 34.
The four Sarawakians were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen on April 1 and the militants had reportedly demanded a ransom of RM18 million for their release.