Alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits hold Basilan engineer; hot pursuit on
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – (UPDATE) The authorities said Saturday they were hot on the trail of an Abu Sayyaf faction in Basilan that kidnapped an engineer working on a road project on Friday afternoon.
The kidnapping of Virgilio Fernandez of Mace Construction in Lamitan City was the second abduction in less than a month in Lamitan.
On May 19, gunmen identified by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as Abu Sayyaf members snatched a 16-year-old boy. The police, however, have blamed local MILF guerrillas for the abduction of Nico Sebastian.
The teenager in captivity, with the kidnappers threatening to kill him unless his family paid P2.5 million in ransom.
Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, chief of police of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that the police were certain it was the Abu Sayyaf that was behind the kidnapping of Fernandez.
Latag said witnesses identified the leader of the gunmen who took Fernandez around 3:30 p.m. from Sitio (sub-village) Libi in Barangay (village) Bulanting as Mosama Jamiri.
Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command here, said Jamiri was a follower of notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri. It was not immediately known if the two were related.
Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Western Mindanao, said Fernandez was traveling on a company dumptruck from Muhammad Ajul town when he was snatched.
The kidnappers, he said, first disabled the truck by shooting one of its tires before forcibly taking the victim. They then fled on a motorcycle with the engineer, Khu said.
Cabangbang said a pursuit operation was continuing, with soldiers and policemen working side by side.
“Intelligence units were also tasked to monitor and support other operating troops in the area,” Cabangbang said.
Meanwhile, Khu said kidnapping charges had been filed against MILF commander Arasad Jion and Nadsmhir Abubakar for the disappearance of Sebastian.
Abubakar is a close friend of the victim but he was included in the charges because he had not been seen since Sebastian’s kidnapping, he said.
Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, maintained that Jion was innocent of the charges and said he was in fact trying to determine Sebastian’s whereabouts.
“The Abu Sayyaf did it,” Kabalu said.
With a report from Danica Hermogenes, INQUIRER.net
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