Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Philippine rebels hold kidnap suspect in Mindanao

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 8, 2009) – Philippine Muslim rebels on Wednesday said it is holding a man implicated in the kidnapping of a boy in Mindanao.

Eid Kabalu, a senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said rebel forces seized Mohamin Abo last week after police authorities tagged him as behind the kidnapping of John Kyle Chongson in Cotabato City on June 26. He said Abo was a former disc jockey at a radio station in Mindanao.

He said Abo is being investigated by a rebel court for his involvement in the kidnapping. “He is currently under detention and being investigated for his role in the kidnapping of the boy. He would be put on trial and punish accordingly if found guilty by the MILF's Shariah court,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police tagged the Pentagon Gang as behind the boy’s kidnapping. But the military also linked the MILF to the kidnapping; however, Kabalu denied his group was involved. “That’s why Abo was arrested by the MILF after we learned about his involvement,” Kabalu said.

The four-year old boy, son of a rice dealer, was recovered by policemen late Tuesday on a remote village in Maguindanao’s Datu Odin Sinsuat town. Police also blamed the Pentagon Gang for two previous kidnappings in Cotabato City this year.

It was unknown if ransom was paid but other reports said the kidnappers originally demanded P15 million for the boy’s liberty. Police said no ransom was paid.

Kabalu also admitted that Abo has a relative who are members of the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.

The MILF had previously hanged in public several criminals it arrested in the past for various offences against Christians and Muslims.

The arrest of Abo came after the MILF ordered its forces to arrest and take drastic actions against kidnappers in areas where the rebels are actively operating. It was the second order in seven years that the MILF told rebels to fight kidnappings-for-ransom.

Police and military authorities have previously accused rogue MILF members of either coddling kidnappers or themselves involved in the nefarious activities in Mindanao to raise fund for the purchase of weapons or finance their secessionist campaign.

Kidnappings-for-ransom has become a lucrative business for rebels and criminal syndicates in Mindanao, where many areas are underdeveloped and job opportunities are scarce.

Sometimes criminal gangs kidnapped civilians and hand them over to rebels in exchange for a cut in the ransom. Poverty has also been blamed for many kidnappings in Mindanao.

“The Central Committee of the MILF directs its freedom fighters comprising the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces to arrest and take drastic actions against the perpetrators of this heinous crime until these criminal activities are neutralized and stopped in MILF areas,” said an MILF order signed on Monday by the Front’s chief of staff, Sammy Al-Mansur.

“Anti-kidnapping task force is hereby organized for this purpose. For strict compliance and implementation,” it further said. The order was also signed by Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs.

In February 2002, the MILF also issued a similar order after Manila sought its help in running after kidnappers in the southern Philippines. President Gloria Arroyo who opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001 also signed a truce with rebels.

And in 2004, the MILF forged an agreement with Manila that paved the way for rebel forces through the ad-hoc joint action group to help government hunt down terrorists and criminal elements in areas where the rebel group is operating.

But peace talks collapsed in August last year after the MILF accused Arroyo of reneging on a preliminary Muslim homeland deal. The Supreme Court said the agreement which was initially signed in Malaysia in July 2008 is unconstitutional.

Since then, fighting between military and rebel forces continue. The MILF said it will not resume peace talks unless Arroyo honors the ancestral domain deal. Arroyo is to step down next year without any significant deal with the MILF.
(Mindanao Examiner)

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