Kidnapped Korean found dead
ZAMBOANGA CITY—An elderly South Korean man who was kidnapped by Moro bandits in January was found dead near Sulu State College in Jolo, Sulu province, on Saturday night, police and military officials said on Sunday.
Cmdr. Vincent Roy Trinidad, chief of staff of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, identified the South Korean as Hong Nwi-seong, who was kidnapped by the Waning Abdusalam Group (WAG) in Roseller T. Lim (RT Lim) town, Zamboanga Sibugay province, on Jan. 24.
The WAG later turned over Hong, 73, to the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf bandit group in Sulu province.
Trinidad said Hong’s body, which was in the initial stage of decomposition, was found at around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Citing a police report, Trinidad said the body bore no gunshot or knife wounds, and that the time of death had been estimated to be three to five days ago.
Death due to illness
Trinidad said Hong had been reported to be ill in captivity.
Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Antiterror Task Force, said Hong was not killed but that the Abu Sayyaf had brought his body to the area “after the subject’s death due to illness.”
The type of illness was not disclosed.
Trinidad said Hong and his wife, Sik Young-lee, were visiting their son Hong Gobui, who owns a small restaurant and operates a mineral processing plant in RT Lim, when Hong was kidnapped.
The family and two friends of the son were having dinner when the kidnappers barged into the son’s rented house, Trinidad said.
“They all fought against the seven kidnappers [who were wearing police uniforms]. Gobui, his two friends and his mother were able to escape,” an officer from the Antikidnapping Task Force said.
A government antiterrorism official told The Associated Press (AP) by telephone that the Abu Sayyaf initially demanded a ransom of P500 million but later agreed to drastically reduce the amount as Hong fell ill and was often transported on a horse because he was too weak to walk.
It was not immediately clear if any amount was handed to the kidnappers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Details of Hong’s captivity and efforts to free him were kept quiet to avoid endangering his life.
Hong’s body has been transferred to Zamboanga City and will be flown to Manila, local authorities said.
South Korea to investigate
A South Korean foreign ministry official, who declined to be identified, had confirmed Hong’s death, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
“We will investigate with the Philippines authorities on how he died and in what circumstances,” Yonhap quoted the official as saying.
Founded in the early 1990s with seed money from then al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, the Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the Philippines’ deadliest terror attacks, including the kidnapping for ransom of foreigners, some of whom they killed.
The heavily forested island of Jolo is the Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold, where the bandits often hide their hostages for months.
Without any known major sources of foreign funding, the group has survived through kidnapping for ransom and extortion, but has been weakened by years of US-backed military offensives.
The group is still holding several hostages, including a Dutch bird watcher who was kidnapped more than three years ago in nearby Tawi-Tawi province, two Malaysians and a Japanese.
An Abu Sayyaf faction is believed to be behind the kidnapping of three Westerners and a Filipino woman in a resort island in Davao del Norte province in September and the abduction of a former missionary in Zamboanga Sibugay in October. With reports from AP and AFP
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