Friday, February 3, 2012

Philippine military intensifying rescue of 2 kidnapped Europeans

English: Map of Tawi-Tawi showing the location...
Image via Wikipedia
MANILA, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Philippine navy ships have put up a blockade off the southern province of Tawi-tawi as ground forces are mounting search and rescue operations for the kidnappers of two Europeans held captive by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Wednesday.

In a phone interview, Renato Yongke, commander of the Naval Task Force 62, said at least four ships with elite members of the Naval Special Operations Group are inspecting boats that are leaving the province.

"We have put up a blockade here..All motorboats are being inspected," said Yongke, adding that two of the ships used in the blockade are patrol gunboats. He said reports indicate that the kidnappers and their hostages are still in Tawi-tawi.

The two victims, Dutch Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinzigueere, were snatched by five suspects, armed with rifles, near Sitio Luuk village in Parangan village of Panglima Sugala town at around 1 p. m. Wednesday.

A local contact, Nestor Cabaluas, escaped immediately after. Ivan Sarenas from Davao, another local companion of the foreigners, fled by jumping off from the kidnappers' boat at around 9 p.m. Wednesday on their way to Sulu province.

Yonke confirmed that the suspects attempted to flee to Sulu but they returned to Tawi-tawi as they were running out of fuel. Police have yet to determine the group affiliation of the armed kidnappers. Though they have interviewed Sarenas but the latter could not say the affiliation of the suspects.

Yonke said Marines are coordinating with the provincial police in the search and rescue operations for the wildlife photographers who reportedly arrived at Tawi-tawi from Zamboanga City last Sunday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos told a press briefing Thursday said they are looking into the possible involvement of the terrorist group. Also, he said they are considering other "lawless elements" as suspects.

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