After spending 14 months in captivity under Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group based in the Philippines, 36-year-old Biju Kolaraveetil finally managed to escape from the clutches of his abductors in southern Philippines early on Friday.
Hailing from Kerala, Biju - who worked as an operations manager at a garments company in Kuwait — was abducted last June, when he went there with his Filipino wife. Abu Sayayaf, which is pursuing a fundamentalist battle against the Philippine authorities, had demanded 20 million peso (approx Rs 22 lakh) as ransom for Biju's release.
"It had been a harrowing time… the mental and physical torment I suffered can't be explained in words. My wife and two sons in Philippines were living in fear… my old parents in Kerala were being harassed for ransom. But it's all over now. I just want to return to India with my wife and kids and be with my old parents," Biju told HT from Manila.
On Thursday night, Biju took advantage of lax security to give his captors the slip. Recollecting his year-long ordeal, he said, “I was kept blindfolded most of the time, and my hands were tied. They kept threatening to behead me, if my family did not come up with the ransom."
Biju would be handed over to the Indian embassy on Saturday, and officials in Manila have already started working to facilitate his return home. “It was at the behest of Mullapaly Ramachandran (the minister of state for home affairs) that a core group, comprising local police and embassy officials, was set up for securing Biju’s realease. Several rounds of talks were held before Biju escaped,” Shybu, Biju’s brother, said.
Meanwhile, celebrations have already begun at Biju's home. "We have begun preparations for Biju's homecoming. It is such a relief for my parents. The first person Biju called from the police station was my mother," Shybu added.