Kidnapped boy survived in Filipino jungle on sweets and coconuts after daring escape

 

A 14-year-old American boy held hostage in the southern Philippine jungle by the feared Abu Sayyaf rebel group has made an audacious escape, fleeing barefoot and surviving on coconuts for two days while following a river to the nearest village.

Kevin Lunsmann, who had been held on Basilan Island for five months, gave his captors the slip on Friday as they were sleeping. Villagers near the town of Lamitan found the terrified teenager hiding in bushes near the river.

Kevin, from Virginia, was kidnapped with his Filipina-American mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, and a Filipino cousin, Romnick Jakaria, while holidaying on a small island near the southern port of Zamboanga in July. Ms Lunsmann was freed in October, and Mr Jakaria reportedly escaped last month.

Lamitan's mayor Roderick Furigay, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Kevin "looked so skinny, with rashes all over his body". Mr Furigay said: "He was hiding in bushes, taking cover in big foliage, when he was found."

A spate of kidnappings for ransom in the country's volatile south is blamed mainly on Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic separatist group that has beheaded hostages. An Australian, Richard Rodwell, was seized at his home on Mindanao island last week, becoming the tenth foreigner to be abducted this year.

Local officials handed Kevin to US troops, who have been stationed in the southern Philippines for the past decade, training and equipping local forces to fight Abu Sayyaf. He was then flown to the capital, Manila, where the US ambassador, Harry Thomas, said he would be reunited with his family soon.

In a statement, Mr Thomas praised the teenager's courage, adding: "In this holiday season nothing makes me happier than knowing that an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for holiday celebrations."

Some reports say Kevin's family paid a ransom of US$15,000 (£9,572) soon after he and his mother and 19-year-old cousin were kidnapped. It is unclear whether more money was paid before Ms Lunsmann, 50, was released. She was dropped off by boat at a wharf on Basilan, near the town of Maluso.

The Mindanao Examiner reported that the kidnappers had originally demanded 50m pesos (£734,000).

The mayor of Zamoboanga, Celso Lobregat, said Kevin told him that after fleeing Abu Sayyaf's jungle hide-out he followed the river "with the idea that he'll reach the ocean". The teenager survived on sweets, presumably given to him by his captors, and coconuts, which he scaled trees to obtain.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works