Thursday, February 02, 2012

Kidnapped Filipino guide escapes from captors in Tawi-Tawi

MANILA, Philippines—A Filipino guide seized Wednesday in Tawi-Tawi along with two European birdwatchers has escaped from their abductors, police told
Ivan Sarenas escaped from the five gunmen who abducted him said Director Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Directorate of Integrated Police Operations in Western Mindanao.
But the foreigners—Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52—remain with their captors, Khu said.
The gunmen seized the three men while they were on a birdwatching trip in Sitio Look-look, in the village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town, he said.
They were forced onto a speedboat, regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Randolph Cabangbang told Agence France-Presse.
A second Filipino guide escaped  and was the first to report the crime to authorities, he added.
Sarenas, meanwhile, escaped by jumping out of the speeding pump boat at around 9:30 p.m., he said in a report he sent to Philippine National Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr.
He has been brought to Panglima Sugala municipal police station where he was being interviewed by the police director for Tawi-Tawi, said Khu.
Sarenas is a member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and frequently visits Tawi-Tawi, the club’s treasurer, Michael Lu, told Agence France-Presse.
“He had been a frequent visitor to Tawi-Tawi and he is the only person I know who has pictures of rare birds from that area, such as the Sulu hornbill,” Lu said.
The Dutch foreign ministry refused to confirm the abduction at present and said it did not know the identity of the person kidnapped.
Cabangbang said the military did not yet know who abducted the trio.
Police said that the suspects armed with an M203, two M16 rifles, and two caliber .45 pistols, were on board a pump boat and might be headed towards Sulu.
The Tawi-Tawi Crisis Management Committee has since been activated with joint forces of the police, navy and marines working to rescue the victims.
Wednesday’s abductions lift the number of foreigners kidnapped in Mindanao since the beginning of last year to more than 10.
Five of them — an Australian, two Malaysian traders, an Indian married to a Filipina and a Japanese man — are still in captivity. Three abducted Filipinos are also still being held.
The Australian, 53-year-old Warren Rodwell, was kidnapped from his home in in a southern town in December and appeared in a video released to media last month in which he said his adbuctors were demanding $2 million for his release.
In 2000 the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 mostly European tourists from a Malaysian island resort and brought them by boat to the Philippine island of Jolo, not far from Tawi Tawi.
The hostages were ransomed off after many months for millions of dollars, with Libya brokering the deals and facilitating their release.
The following year the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped three Americans along with a group of Filipino tourists from a southwestern Philippine island resort. One of the Americans was beheaded and another was killed during a rescue attempt.
The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
It is believed to have only a few hundred militants but is blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a ferry in Manila in 2004 that killed more than 100 people, as well as the kidnappings.
6:00 am | Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

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