A female employee of a local lending firm has regained her freedom after being held hostage by the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippine island for more than four months, a military commander reported Sunday.
Rear Admiral Alex Pama, commander of the military's Naval Forces Western Mindanan, told reporters that Leah Patris ran away from her captors late Saturday night in Sumisip town of Basilan province, as the guerrillas were avoiding government troops who were closing in on them.
Patris was snatched with fellow lending firm employee Ahmad Ilang by the militants on Jan. 27 in Zamboanga Sibugay province and were later brought to island province of Basilan, a strong-hold of the 340-member militant group. Ilang was released on Feb. 6.
Last Wednesday, Sri Lankan peace worker Omar Jaleel was also released by his Abu Sayyaf captors, four months after his abduction in residence in Lamitan city of Basilan.
Pama said government forces have launched intense operations against the bandits in Basilan following Jaleel's release.
"In fact, our forces have already entered their lair at Sitio Kurelem, Tipo-tipo town. These bandits are cowards, they ran and hid but three of them were confirmed dead in the clash," Pama said.
The militants are still holding at least five hostages in Basilan and two, a Chinese shop assistant and an Italian Red Cross employee, in the neighboring province of Sulu.