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: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage