Wednesday 26 July 2017

Barefoot jungle trek of boy (14) who foiled armed kidnap gang

Kevin Lunsmann: escaped captors in Philippines
Kevin Lunsmann: escaped captors in Philippines

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok

AN American teenager abducted by Islamist militants in the Philippines five months ago fled barefoot through the jungle after telling his captors he was going for a bath in a stream.

Kevin Lunsmann (14) tricked his four armed kidnappers, suspected of being linked to al-Qa'ida, on Friday.

He evaded their clutches, then followed the stream down a mountain and walked for two days without shoes before he was discovered by villagers on the island of Basilan.

At first he feared they might be sympathetic to his Abu Sayyaf captors and fled, but after a brief chase, the villagers convinced the boy, who was exhausted, hungry and in shock, that they meant him no harm, and his ordeal was finally over late on Saturday.

"He was in fear, so there was a bit of a chase before the villagers convinced him that they were friends," said police Senior Supt Edwin de Campo.

Harry Thomas, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said Kevin had talked to his family by phone and would be reunited with them shortly. He added: "In this holiday season nothing makes me happier than knowing an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for the holiday celebrations."

Kevin was seized along with his Filipino-American mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann (50), and a Filipino cousin, Romnick Jakaria (19), while they were on holiday on an island near Zamboanga city on July 12.

In a 3am raid, a dozen armed men stormed the resort on Tictabon Island, off Mindanao, and overpowered the guards.

Ransom

Police said Mrs Lunsmann, who grew up on Basilan and changed her name from Jerpa Usman, was visiting relatives and had intended to return with Kevin to her husband in Virginia. Their captors took the hostages to Basilan island and called the family in the US to demand a ransom.

Mrs Lunsmann was freed two months ago, but it is unclear whether a ransom was paid.

Mr Jakaria escaped last month.

A Philippines army colonel, Ricardo Visaya, said he asked Kevin if he had been set free, suggesting a ransom might have been paid. He replied: "No, I really did it myself." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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