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New hostage taken as defence chief admits “embarrassment” at terror failings

Since Duterte’s election, the number of hostages held by Abu Sayyaf has increased from 18 to 32

Despite claims of military successes against Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic State-affiliated terrorists have taken another hostage — this time a local school teacher.

Colonel Cirilito Sobejana Jr, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed that the terror group had kidnapped a member of staff from Jolo National High School.

He named the victim as Ibrahim Potong, who was driving home to Maimbung town on his motorcycle when he was ambushed on Friday afternoon.

“The bandits seized the teacher and fled towards an unknown direction,” he said. “Pursuit operation is ongoing.”

The abduction of Mr Potong has brought the known number of hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf to 32. These include 12 Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, six Filipinos, five Malaysians and one Dutchman.

Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana expressed his embarrassment over the increase in the number of hostages abducted since the election of President Duterte.

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He added that during the tenure of the current administration, the number of hostages had risen from 18.

Major Generl Carlito Galvez Jr, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command said the rise had nothing to do with the president’s policies and that his troops had already killed more than 32 Abu Sayyaf members, including some senior figures, and injured at least 22.

On Thursday, a relative of the group’s leader Isnilon Hapilon and three of his followers were killed in gun battle with troops in Basilan.

Last month, Hapilon travelled to Lanao province in central Mindanao to join up with the Maute group. There was speculation that he was acting on behalf of so-called Islamic State to find a new home for embattled terrorists fleeing the Middle East. He was reported to have been seriously injured in an airstrike in Butig town. His death has not bee confirmed.

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Hapilon was indicted in Washington for his involvement in the 2001 kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines, and has a $5-million bounty on his head from the US government.

Speculation about Abu Sayyaf’s links to so-called Islamic State was confirmed by a video declaring Hapilon as its leader in Southeast Asia and “emir” of the militant group in the Philippines.

Since 1991, the group has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion.

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