MILITARY forces successfully rescued the 64-year-old Filipino-American seized by suspected Daesh-inspired Abu Sayyaf bandits 15 days ago in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, officials said Wednesday, September 30.
Lieutenant Colonel Leon Onggao Jr., 42nd Infantry Battalion commander, said that Rex Triplitt (not Triplet as earlier reported) was rescued following a clash around 10:20 a.m. Wednesday in Pisa Itom village, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.
Onggao said the clash ensued when the troops chanced upon the five Abu Sayyaf bandits who were holding captive Triplitt while conducting rescue operation in Pisa Itom, Sirawai.
Onggao said they had been conducting relentless pursuit operations since the time of the incident to stop the bandits from leaving the Zamboanga Peninsula area.
"We are preventing them from transporting the victim to the island provinces of Basilan or Sulu," he added.
He said the troops have zero casualty during the rescue operation.
Triplitt was driving a motorcycle with his 24-year-old wife, Celsa Maani, on the way home to Piacan village in the evening of September 16 when flagged down by five Abu Sayyaf bandits upon reaching Barangay Tapanayan, about five kilometers from Sirawai town proper.
The bandits, brandishing with M-203 grenade launcher and short firearms, forcibly dragged the couple to a waiting vehicle.
In the commotion, Triplitt's wife managed to escape and asked for help from barangay officials, while the bandits holding Triplitt fled.
Brigadier General Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said pursuit and manhunt operations together with other security forces will continue "until we apprehend these terrorists and make them accountable to court."
Nicolas extended his sincere gratitude to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for the assistance and support extended to the troops throughout the course of the rescue operation.
Major General Generoso Ponio, 1st Infantry Division commander, commended the troops for the successful rescue of the Filipino-American. (SunStar Zamboanga)