Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kidnapped Matriarch Freed In Jolo Island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 27 Apr) Kidnappers freed a 70-year old matriarch, two weeks after she and her son were seized in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, the military said Thursday.

The military said gunmen released Caridad Vergara before midnight Wednesday near downtown Jolo town, but the fate of her 41-year old son, Bren, is still unknown.

Gunmen seized the duo April 12 near the town's Kakuyagan village while on their way to the family pharmacy, said Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, commander of military forces on the troubled island, about 950 km south of Manila. The kidnappers originally demanded two million pesos ransom in exchange for their safe release.

Vergara told military and police investigators that she was blindfolded by her guards and transported by a motorcycle to the village of Danag where she was found by civilians. She was later brought to the house of the town mayor, Al-Kharmer Izquierdo, who handed her over to relatives.

It was not immediately known if her family paid ransom for her release. Her family did not give any statement about her release nor the fate of her son.

No groups claimed responsibility for the abduction, but suspicion fell heavily on the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for the series of kidnappings and terrorism in the troubled region.

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