Joint police and military agents under the Task Group Tugis headed by Army Lt. Col. Salvador Calanoy IV (right) and Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG 12) under Supt. Roberto Badian (left) present captured Abu Sofia members. (Mark Navales)
COTABATO CITY (Juan Magtanggol / 28 Jul) Security forces captured 3 members of the Abu Sofia group implicated in the 2002 kidnapping of a South Korean citizen in the southern Philippines, officials said on Friday.
Officials said policemen, backed by soldiers, stormed a terrorist hideout in the village of Bulalo in Maguindanao's Sultan Kudarat town and arrested the trio.
"They are all under interrogation and the capture of the three men was the result of a long intelligence operation. We finally got them," Col. Frank del Prado, a spokesman for the Army's 6th Infantry Division, told the Zamboanga Journal.
He said soldiers seized automatic weapons from the three men who were linked to the kidnapping of Jae Keon Yoon and Filipino hotel owner Carlos Belonio in Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat province in February 06, 2002.
Belonio was accompanying Yoon, a guest at his Tierra Verde Hotel, to buy nickel bars purportedly recovered from a Japanese wartime hoard when they were kidnapped. Yoon was freed after 22 weeks in captivity, while the Filipino had been released ahead of him after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransom.
Philippine authorities previously blamed the kidnapping to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Pentagon Gang, blamed for the spate of killings and abductions in the province.
Del Prado said troops were tracking down other members of the Abu Sofia group, also tagged as behind the series of killings and bombings in the southern Philippines.
"The Abu Sofia is allied with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group. The Sofia is known to provide sanctuary to members of the Abu Sayyaf and both groups are involved in terrorism. There is an operation against the terrorists," he said.
Police in June 2002 had captured Ismael Binago, the deputy leader of the Abu Sofia, involved in Yoon's kidnapping, in the port city of General Santos, about 1,037 kilometers south of Manila.
Police agents disguised themselves as beggars and egg peddlers for weeks to be able to penetrate the village where Binago was hiding and gather information about the Abu Sofia that led to his eventual arrest. (With a report from Mark Navales)