An American hostage, who was kidnapped by a terrorist group in the Philippines, has escaped and will be reunited with his family after being held captive for five months.
Kevin Lunsmann, 14, fled four gunmen through a jungle Friday, before wandering barefoot through a Basilan jungle for two days, surviving on coconuts and candy. When villagers found Lunsmann, he was so shaken and frightened that he initially fled them as well, according to the Washington Post
“He was in fear, so there was a bit of a chase before the villagers convinced him that they were friends,” Basilan Police Supt. Edwin de Ocampo told AP.
According to de Ocampo, Lunsmann told his captors that he would take a bath in a nearby stream. However, when he saw an opportunity, he ran off into the jungle, alongside a river until the villagers found him.
Heiko Lunsmann, Kevin’s father, told CNN that his son plotted his escape for some time and put his plan into action while guards were asleep.
Philippines’ military Western Minando Command spokesman, Randolph Capangbang, initially said that Lunsmann had been released by his kidnappers.
Officials are unaware if any ransom exchanged hands, but Lunsmann said he escaped and was not freed.
According to the Washington Post, Lunsmann told Army Col. Ricardo Visaya, “no, I really did it myself.”
He was found Saturday wandering just south of the Latiman City on the island of Basilan, according to reports.
Army officials released him to American authorities in the Mandango region, before he was reunited with his mother on Monday at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
“In this holiday season, nothing makes me happier than knowing that an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for holiday celebrations,” U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas said in a statement.
He added that there would be a speedy investigation and prosecution in all those involved in the kidnapping of an American citizen.
Lunsmann was kidnapped by more than a dozen gunmen on July 12, along with his mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann and his 19-year-old cousin, Romnick Jakaria. The family was vacationing on the island of Tictabon, when the gunmen forced them onto boats and fled to Basilan.
The abductors then contacted the family in Virginia to demand a ransom. Kevin’s mother was released in October and his cousin escaped last month, according to reports.
Puruji Indama, leader of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, is suspected to be behind the abductions.
According to the Washington Post, the group is known for kidnappings and bombings in the Philippines. The group has less than 400 members and was started in the 1990s in Basilan. U.S. troops have been stationed in the Southern Philippines to combat their presence.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to still be holding additional hostages.