Thousands search for kidnapped tourists

THOUSANDS of security forces, supported by air and sea assets, scoured the hinterlands of Eastern Mindanao on Wednesday in search of three foreigners and a Filipina who were abducted from a resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte Monday.

Military and police units searched for Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Maritess Flor even as President Benigno Aquino III claimed in Luna, Apayao on Wednesday that a new armed group may be behind the abduction which has led to the issuance of travel advisory by the Canandian Embassy in Manila.

Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall

Meantime, the authorities found in Governor Generoso town in Davao Oriental two motorized outriggers that are believed to have been used by the kidnappers while the police provided a cartographic sketches of some of the suspects.

The military said the two boats were possibly the ones used by at least 11 armed men who snatched the four victims while they were inside a yacht berthed at the Ocean View Island Resort.

Initial investigation disclosed that the kidnappers and their captives were last seen heading in the general direction of Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu area, but it could not be ascertained whether the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group was directly behind the abduction as initially believed.

Initial reports tagged the group of ASG commander Muammar Askali, alias Abu Rami, as responsible for the kidnapping.

Capt. Alberto Caber, Public Affairs Officer in Eastern Mindanao Command, said all units were alerted to support the ongoing police operations while the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command has intensified intelligence gathering and the deployment of naval assets.

“All efforts are currently being exhausted by the military and police to locate and establish the identities of the abductors,” said Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero.

“We have dispatched navy units for maritime interdiction along possible routes and have intensified our intel monitoring to locate the group and the victims in coordination with the Eastern Mindanao Command,” added Guerrero.

Meanwhile in Luna, Apayao, President Aquino yesterday said a new armed group may be behind the abduction of three foreigners and a Filipino woman from an island resort in Samal in    Davao City.

“Our security sector is not stopping to do their job to go after the suspects,” said Aquino during an ambush interview at the Bienvenido G. Verzola Jr. Memorial Sports Complex in Luna.

Aquino was in Apayao on Wednesday to inspect the Far North Luzon General Hospital. He was also briefed on the major infrastructure projects being implemented in the province.

“Authorities reviewed what happened. And it seems that in the initial report, there’s a new armed group,” Aquino said.

“Of course, our intelligence services will account for this. Why did it not appear in their radars? Or maybe, this is really a newly-formed group. We still do not know. What is their motivation, it is still not yet clear,” said Aquino.


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