NEW: Kevin's father tells CNN affiliate the boy had plotted his escape for a while
"An innocent victim is returned to his family," the ambassador says
Report: Kevin walked for two days, surviving on candies and coconut
His mother and cousin were released earlier
A 14-year-old Filipino-American boy abducted in July by suspected Islamic militants in the Philippines is free, officials said.
Kevin Lunsmann was reunited with his mother, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said Monday, without offering additional details.
“It was a tough time. It was a tough five months,” Kevin’s father, Heiko, told CNN affiliate WSET, from the family home in Lynchburg, Virginia. “I’m just so happy.”
Heiko Lunsmann said the boy had plotted his escape for a while and eventually seized the opportunity some time late last week while his guards slept.
He “was spotted alone” Saturday about six miles southwest of Lamitan City on the island of Basilan, a stronghold of the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf, the official Philippines News Agency said.
Army officials turned him over to American forces in the southern Mindanao region, the Philippine government said in a statement to CNN affiliate TV 5.
The Philippine Inquirer quoted the Lamitan city mayor, Roderick Furigay, as saying Kevin walked for two days, surviving on candies his captors presumably gave him and on coconuts that he retrieved by climbing trees.
“In this holiday season nothing makes me happier than knowing that an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for holiday celebrations,” Harry Thomas, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said in a weekend statement.
“If ever we are to be inspired by the human spirit, we should take comfort in the courage, commitment and love that the Lunsmann family exhibited during this trying ordeal,” Thomas added.
Fourteen gunmen snatched Kevin, his mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, and his 19-year-old cousin, Romnick Jakaria, in July while they vacationed on the island of Tictabon, authorities said. The abductors forced them to board awaiting boats, which then sped off in the direction of Basilan.
Kevin’s mother was released by her captors in October. Jakaria was released last month, according to the news agency.
Basilan serves as a base for Abu Sayyaf, which wants to establish a separate state for the Philippines’ minority Muslim population. The U.S. State Department considers the group a terrorist organization and says it is linked to al Qaeda. The Philippines government has been fighting to contain the militants.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for several terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that left about 130 people dead, as well as past kidnappings.
Basilan’s governor called on authorities Sunday to prosecute the alleged kidnappers of the Lunsmann family, according to the news agency.
“The prosecution of kidnappers by a court of law will put a stop to kidnappings,” the news agency quoted Jum Akbar as saying.
Thomas, the U.S. ambassador, said the crime will not go “unpunished.”
Gerfa Lunsmann was adopted by Americans when she was 9 and grew up in Virginia. She eventually married a German citizen. Both she and the son, Kevin, are U.S. passport holders.
Kevin’s father told WSET that the boy will eventually share his story of escape, but did not say when.
“I can tell you a lot of things, but I only know that he is a hero,” he said.
Read more about this story from CNN affiliate WSET.