KOTA KINABALU: The escape of Rolland Ullah, the last Sipadan hostage, from the clutches of Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the Philippines island of Jolo, marked the end to the infamous Easter Sunday kidnappings in Sabah three years ago.
Ullahs former fellow hostages were overjoyed with news of his escape while those who worked in the Malaysian negotiating team thanked God that all the 21 Sipadan hostages came out alive.
Dive master Fong Yin Ken, a former Sipadan hostage, said: Its great to hear that Ullah is out. We are overjoyed with the news.
Ken said that they were very sad by a statement by certain Philippines authorities labelling Ullah as an Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
It is definitely not true. He was with us and always talking about wanting to be back with his family, said Ken, who was freed by Abu Sayaff about four months after 21 of them were grabbed from Sipadan on April 23, 2000.
The 44-year-old Ullah, a staff member of Borneo Divers Resort at Sipadan, managed to escape during an exchange between the Abu Sayyaff gunmen and a Philippines military task force near Patikul town in Jolo island.
The Philippines task force head Brig-Gen Romeo Tolentino has said that Ullah was under their custody but it could not be confirmed if he was being treated as an ex-hostage or was under arrest.
Tolentino only said that Ullah was being debriefed.
Clement Lee of Borneo Divers, Ullahs employer, said that they were prepared to re-employ him if Malaysian authorities gave the green light.
There have been some doubts cast about his position with the Abu Sayyaff. If it is cleared we want him to come back and work with us, said Lee, who said Ullah was their a handyman for the last 20 years.
Ullahs wife Joy Acune and their sons, aged six and three years, had left for Zamboanga City a year after the kidnappings hoping to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaff gunmen to release Ullah.
Acune, who is staying there with her sister, has no telephone contact. However, a Philippines Daily Inquirer report quoted her as saying that she hoped the news was true. If I see him alive, I will be very happy.
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