Saturday, January 31, 2009

4 abducted and feared killed near Zambo town

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 31, 2009) – Government troops were deployed in the outskirts of Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to help search for four people abducted and feared killed by unidentified gunmen, officials said Saturday.

Officials said the a 16-year old villager, Mark Endido, who was shot and wounded by the gunmen managed to escape to tell authorities what happened to them. Among those missing was father, Benjamin, and three neighbors – all from the Curuan district, east of Zamboanga City.

Endido said the incident occurred on Wednesday and reported the incident the next day after seeking help from authorities in Curuan where he was treated for gunshot wound.

He told reporters they were panning for gold in the village of Lakiki in Sibuco town near the boundary of Curuan district when 15 armed men seized them. He said they were tied and herded, but he managed to flee and that gunmen opened fire and hit him on the shoulder.

He said he heard automatic gunfire and that those who were left behind were probably executed. Endido, who is now being guarded at a hospital in Zamboanga City, appealed to the authorities to recover the bodies of his father and neighbors Josel dela Cruz, Audy Valiente and Jonas Valiente.

“We have sent soldiers in the area to search for the missing villagers. We are closely coordinating with the police in the area,” said Army Col. Santiago Baluyot, commander of an anti-terror task force in Zamboanga City.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City said the search for the missing men began on Friday after it received reports about the incident.
“We are awaiting reports, but there are soldiers in the area conducting search and rescue operation,” said Lt. Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman.

The motive of the attack is still unknown, but officials said it could have been connected to gold panning activities in the area. Moro rebels are also actively operating in the province.

Early this week, Moro rebels torched a dump truck owned by Bendimil Construction in the village of Jatian in Sibuco town after the firm failed to pay extortion money.

It was the second attack this month, on January 16, rebels also torched a backhoe owned by ESR Construction in the village of Malabuhanginan in Siocon town, also in Zamboanga del Norte province. (Mindanao Examiner)

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