Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chinese national kidnapped in Southern Philippines

KABACAN, Philippines (Xinhua / May 28, 2009) - A 24-year-old Chinese national, not a Korean as reported before, was kidnapped in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato Wednesday afternoon, officials and witnesses said on Thursday.

With the surname of Ma (not Maxine Wo as earlier reported), a woman from the Chinese mainland, was about to buy some vegetables when two gunmen abducted her, forced her into a car and ran away around 4:45 p.m. local time (0845 GMT), only a few meters away from her residence in the township of Kabacan, North Cotabato province, witness said.

A Chinese diplomat based in the central city of Cebu, whose office's jurisdiction also covers the Mindanao region, confirmed that the kidnapped victim is a Chinese from the southeastern Fujian province, hometown of the majority of the Chinese immigrants in the Philippines.

"We are coordinating with the local police to ensure the safe release of the victim," Yang Fengwu, consul with the Chinese General Consulate in Cebu, told Xinhua by phone.

Ma is a sister-in-law of a Chinese businessman who owns an ATCHAN Enterprises in Kabacan.

Pai Dumama, a worker of the ATCHAN Enterprises, told Xinhua that the victim arrived in the Southeast Asian country five months ago along with her husband as tourists.

"They have not received any threats of kidnapping before. It only happened yesterday," Dumama said.

"Until now, the kidnappers have not phoned the family," he added.

Meanwhile, a military ground official said that the kidnappers have "opened a line" for negotiation for the release of the victim.

Colonel Domingo Gobway, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Battalion engaged in the operation against the kidnappers, said that the wife of Kabacan town Mayor George Tan, Luz, is currently negotiating with the kidnappers for the release of the Chinese national.

Local officials said the kidnappers are members of a notorious kidnap-for-ransom gang called "Pentagon".

"Ms. Tan left for nearby township of Mlang in North Cotabato to work for the release of the victim. But there's no ransom demand yet from the captors," Gobway said.

The Pentagon, blamed for at least 50 kidnapping cases in Mindanao, first gained notoriety on October 17, 2001, when it abducted Italian priest Guissepe Pierrantoni while he was officiating a Mass in Dimatali town, Zamboanga del Sur.

Pierrantoni was released on April 8, 2002, after six months in captivity.

The group also kidnapped five Chinese engineers and a Filipino guide in May 2001. Four of the Chinese engineers were killed in the crossfire during a military rescue operation sometime in June 2001. (Xinhua)

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