MANILA, Philippines -- Authorities are looking at the possible role of three Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) suspects in the abduction of a Manila-based television news crew in Sulu province in June.
All roughly in their 20s, the three suspected members of Al-Qaeda linked ASG were arrested Friday in Jolo town after a brief firefight with police and soldiers, Sulu provincial police director Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim said. A fourth suspect, one Adjili Sakilan, was killed during the encounter while four fled on foot, police said.
The Philippine National Police provincial headquarters in Sulu and the military's Task Force Comet are investigating the involvement of Asma Awang and relatives Makambian Sakilan and Tagayan Sakilan in kidnapping broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her camera crew four months ago.
?We are conducting a deeper investigation into that. But there is already a possibly, because the three arrested are residents of the area where Ces Drilon was kidnapped,? said Kasim.
Investigation of the Jolo police station showed that those detained resided in Barangay (village) Lower Sinumaan in Talipao town, Sulu where Drilon and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama were taken on June 8.
The news team was later released unharmed upon ransom payment.
Those arrested are detained at the Jolo police station, said the official.
Police and operatives of Joint Task Force Comet, the Armed Forces' special unit pursuing ASG members, had received a call that a suspicious jeep was circling the business establishment of a supposed kidnap target, Kasim said.
Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Larida, commanding officer of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing Team, said the encounter happened around 5:15 p.m. Friday, as the group scouted the area of Gandasuli Drive ?to supposedly snatch a wealthy businessman.?
Authorities continue to search around Jolo for the four kidnap suspects who eluded arrest amid Friday's gunfight, Kasim said.
Task Force Comet Commander Major General Juancho Sabban meanwhile said in a statement Saturday that ASG members forced the military to call off a medical outreach program in Jolo villages after allegedly threatening residents of an attack ?if they consent the military to implement the said health program.?
Sabban said some 2,000 villagers in Indanan town were forced to leave their homes because of the ASG threat.
?Their greed and terrorist behavior have disturbed the local populace, with obvious intent of injecting more sufferings to the poor village folks. The ASG wants no progress and development. Because of government?s commitment to service, its mass base support is dwindling. Obviously, the terrorists are threatened by military?s presence,? Sabban said.