CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 July) — A day after his release in Cagayan de Oro, Nuraldin Yusoph finally narrated his harrowing experience in the hands of his abductors who moved him from one hideout to another in Lanao del Sur, which finally ended on a rainy afternoon in this city, some 130 kms away from Marawi City where he was kidnapped.
“I was constantly threatened and blindfolded. I was always moved around from one place to another,” the young Yusoph told reporters before he was whisked to Manila this morning. He said he was threatened to be killed at least nine times while in captivity.
The 22-year-old Yusoph said he could not recall the places where his abductors had taken him during the 29-day captivity.
“I only remembered the threats. I could not see anything,” he said.
Yusoph said that for a moment, he thought he would not be able survive and see his three-month-old son once more. He said he decided to leave his fate to Allah, whose path he had chosen to follow.
Nuraldin, the son of Elections Commissioner Elias Yusoph, said his kidnappers at first fed him only once a day. But his food intake was increased as the days went by.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Environment Secretary Usman Sarangani said he was surprised how the kidnapping had affected the young Yusoph. “He is so thin,” he said.
A deeply religious man, Yusoph was kidnapped after stepping out from the Bato Ali Mosque in Marawi City last June 19.
He was released late Monday afternoon amid a heavy downpour in Cagayan de Oro, exactly 29 days after he was abducted.
A team of the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) managed to follow the kidnappers as they brought the young Yusoph to Cagayan de Oro for the release.
But riding on old vehicles, the PACER team was no match to the newer, powerful cars used by Yusoph’s kidnappers.
“We lost them somewhere in Iligan City around 12 noon,” a PACER operative told MindaNews.
Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong said the kidnappers released Nuraldin at Junction Ilaya, Macanhan and Masterson road in Barangay Carmen, this city around 5:10 pm. Monday.
Adiong said the family of Yusoph did not pay any ransom for the safe release. Nuraldin was whisked to Manila this morning and brought to his father.
Initially, the kidnappers demanded the nullification of electoral results in the municipalities of Malabang, Picong, Taraka and Masiu in Lanao del Sur. They later dropped this demand in exchange for a P25-million ransom.
Gen. Rey C. Ardo, 103rd Brigade commander based in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City, said he had mobilized three Army battalions under his command to go after the abductors of Nuraldin.
He said that intense pressure from his troops may have forced the kidnappers to sneak out Nuraldin from Marawi City.
Army troopers were ambushed by armed men in Poona Bayabao town, just outside of Marawi City, killing soldier and wounding four last July 13. The next day operating Army troops killed the leader of a notorious armed gang in the province, Dimaporo Dimasakal alias Kumander Delta.
An official of the National Bureau of Investigation who asked not to be named as he is not authorized to make a comment on the issue said that Nuraldin was most probably kept in an urban setting, “as he claims that he is always on the move and riding different kinds of vehicles without recollection as per our investigation that he was made to walk long distances.”
Cagayan de Oro is known to host sizable Maranao communities. Rizal Day bomber and notorious Jemaah Islamiya terrorist Rohman Fathur Al-ghozi and his right hand, Abdulmukin Edris, had reportedly stayed in Cagayan de Oro in 2003. Edris was killed in August 2003 in Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte after he fled his hideout in Barangay Lapasan here.
Intelligence operatives say that it was possible that at the heat of the military operations against the abductors, Nuraldin may have been smuggled into the city to cool off and eventually released Monday afternoon. (With reports from BenCyrus G. Ellorin)