(Update) Three latest kidnap victims in Basilan rescued

Posted at 02/13/2009 2:51 PM | Updated as of 02/18/2009 1:53 AM

Government forces rescued a jeepney driver and two women kidnapped Friday morning by unidentified bandits in Maluso town, Basilan province.

Reports gathered by ABS-CBN Zamboanga said jeepney driver Munib Undug and two unidentified women were rescued by Marines and policemen around 1 p.m.

The three are now in the custody of a military base in Barangay Abong-Abong, the report said. It added that rescue became successful with the help of village officials in the town.

The three were snatched by unidentified gunmen while on board a jeepney around 8 a.m. The victims was passing Maluso road and were bound for Isabela City when the abduction took place.

It was not clear if the Marines and policemen earlier dispatched were able to catch up on the kidnappers.

The three victims were kidnapped six hours after young bandits snatched Sri Lankan Jaleel Umar, member of the Nonviolent Peace Force organization, from a house in Barangay Maloong, Lamitan City around 2:30 a.m.

Umar arrived in the bandit-infested province four months ago and is working with a Lamitan-based non-government organization that conducts human rights seminars  in the city.

Initial police reports said the Sri Lankan was asleep when the gunmen entered their office. Police said the victim did not try to fight off the abductors.

Police said the victim has a Sri Lankan companion who also lives in their office. The victim's companion, however, was out of the country, police added.

Basilan Vice-Governor Al-Rasheed Sakalahul told ANC on Friday the gunmen also tried to abduct the Sri Lankan's armed bodyguard but failed. He said the bodyguard resisted and fired shots at the kidnappers.

The kidnappers forced Umar into a waiting van and sped off to an unknown direction, the vice-governor said.

Sakalahul said the kidnappers were young-looking and were armed with high-powered guns, based on statements from the other occupants of the house. He said the house was also ransacked by the bandits.

Umar was still being held by his kidnappers, who have yet to be identified by police.

Restless

A certain Mrs. Insiong, an NGO worker staying with the victim at the house, told ABS-CBN News Channel in an interview that Umar had been restless because of the spate of kidnappings in the province.

She said the Sri Lankan is afraid of being abducted "because he knows he is a foreigner."

Mrs. Insiong said Umar arrived in Basilan four months ago to conduct human rights seminars.

"Parang restless din siya, natatakot dahil baka makidnap sila dahil foreigner sila (He has been restless, afraid that he will also be kidnapped because he is a foreigner)," she said.

Sakalahul said separate teams of police and Marines were pursuing the kidnappers.

The kidnapping came as the government poured troops to Basilan and Sulu province due to the spate of abductions that started early this year.

Abu Sayyaf bandits, headed by Albader Parad, are currently holding captive three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) members Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni and Mary Jean Lacaba.

The military said Parad's group and the ICRC members are somewhere in the jungles of Indanan town, Sulu province.

At least five more people, including a nine-year-old boy and three public school teacers, are being held by kidnappers in Basilan.

Stop kidnapping volunteers

Bobby Benito, director of the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, appealed to the kidnappers to release Umar and the other aid workers that are being held captive in Basilan and Sulu.

Benito reminded the kidnappers that Umar is a non-combatant and is in Mindanao to help its people affected by the ongoing war between the military and Moro rebels.

Meanwhile, Umar’s group based in Cotabato City has declined to give a statement in the kidnapping.

The group said they would have to discuss matters internally first before making statements.

It said the peace group is currently talking with other related agencies. -- With reports from Queenie Casimiro, ABS-CBN Zamboanga and radio dzMM