Philippine troops continue hunt for kidnappers of Filipino-Chinese trader
Philippine security forces on Friday continued the pursuit operation against kidnappers holding a Filipino-Chinese businessman and his 10-year- old daughter in the south, despite the abductors' earlier warning to harm the hostages, Xinhua reported.
Colonel Dominggo Gobway, a local Army commander in charge of the group operation, told Xinhua that troops using Huey helicopters had sighted the kidnappers and their captives in an area near the city's border and Kabuntalan town in the southern province of Maguindanao.
Earlier, the captors phoned the brother of kidnapped businessman Wilson Tan, asking the military and the police to withdraw their operation or they will hurt their captives. The pursuit was temporarily halted.
Tan, in his 50s, and his daughter Jennifer were snatched by four armed men at gunpoint Wednesday in front of their residence in Cotabato.
"We have resumed our operation," Gobway said, adding that however the military is awaiting collaboration of other security units and local residents for the hunt.
The military said the victims are in the hands of Hadji Musa, a follower of the notorious Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom group leader Tahir Alonto, blamed for the abduction of Italian priest Guissepe Pierrantoni in a town of Zamboanga del Sur in 2001.
Pierrantoni was released after six months in captivity. The group also kidnapped five Chinese engineers and a Filipino guide in May 2001 in central Mindanao.
City Mayor Muslimin Sema denied reports the captors are demanding 10 million peso (191,000 U.S. dollars) in exchange for the captives' freedom.
Sema said he talked to the victims' families and there was no such ransom demand.
Tan's abduction occurred just as troops are hunting down Abu Sayyaf militants holding a Sri Lankan national Umar Jaleel of Nonviolent Peaceforce on the Basilan island and three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross -- Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba -- on Jolo island of neighboring Sulu province.
The Abu Sayyaf is a group founded by radical Muslim rebels in 1991. It is blamed for a series of kidnappings and terror attacks in the Philippines, including the bombing of a passenger ferry at the Manila Bay in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.