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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels kidnap 3 fishermen in Sulu


ZAMBOANGA CITY ,Philippines – Gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf group hijacked a fishing boat off Sulu province and abducted its captain and two crew officers, according to security official yesterday.

Police Director Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operation (DIPO) Western Mindanao, identified the victims as Renato Panisales, boat captain; Wennie Ferre, assistant engineer; and Jonald Ocsimar, quarter master of Mega 8 light boat, owned by the Mega Fishing Co., based in this city.

Khu said the light boat was in the fishing ground in the sea waters off Sulu when it was intercepted by the gunmen on board a pumpboat Saturday at about 9:45 p.m. 

But the abduction was only learned yesterday when the fishing company reported the incident to government security forces after initially reporting a case of missing persons.

“The fishing boat was seajacked by undetermined number of armed men believed to be Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf in one of their fishing grounds in the sea waters off Sulu near Menes Island,” Khu said. 

Khu said based on the reports of the fishing company, the suspects ordered all the crew aboard the fishing boat to identify the officers and seized the victims. 

The suspects escaped on board their pumpboat toward the shores of Patikul, Sulu with their three hostages. 

Khu said there was information that the kidnappers have established contact Sunday with the fishing company for the three hos­tages for them to negotiate. 

Commodore Orwen Cortez, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao said sea crafts have set up a blockade to prevent the kidnappers from utilizing further the waters from escaping. 

He said Sulu Island Command chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo have deployed its forces locating the possible location of the kidnappers and to determine rescue operations.

The al-Qaeda-linked group, notorious for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings, has been blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization. US-backed offensives have led to the loss of several of its top leaders and hindered its ability to launch bombings and other attacks.

A government threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press last month said the 410 remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters, who remain without a central leader, have been hounded by funding problems, forcing them to kidnap even poor victims to get ransom.

The new kidnappings and a recent deadly bombing in Sulu indicate the danger posed by the militants despite their many battle setbacks and underscore the difficulty of fighting terrorism, Khu said.

Intelligence reports show that the kidnappers and their captors were moving about in Sulu’s coastal town of Patikul, where the Abu Sayyaf has mountain strongholds, he said.

Patikul officials were trying to establish contact with the kidnappers to negotiate because a rescue attempt might endanger the hostages, Khu said. – With AP, Rose Tamayo


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