Thursday, July 16, 2009

Troops, cops rescue 2 kidnapped fishermen in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 16, 2009) – Security forces rescued two abducted fishermen after a firefight Thursday with suspected Moro rebels in the southern Philippine province of Basilan, south of Zamboanga City, the military said.

The two - Ronnie Nabi and Renante Saquien – were rescued in Akbar town after policemen, backed by soldiers stormed the village of Semut and clashed with gunmen, believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Other reports blamed the abductions to the Abu Sayyaf and pirates.

“The fishermen are okay and they were brought to the Western Mindanao Command (in Zamboanga City) for medical examination and debriefing,” Army First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokeswoman, said.

The fishermen were abducted off Basilan in March after gunmen attacked their trawler and killed three of its crew, said Basilan deputy governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul. “It is good this is over,” he said.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the chief of staff of the police in the Muslim autonomous region, said the victims were rescued after security forces tracked down the kidnappers and eventually clashed with them.

“We have finally recovered the fishermen. There were no reports of casualties in the fighting, but the operation is going on to track down the kidnappers,” said.

Attacks on trawlers and fishermen are not uncommon at sea around Basilan because rebel groups such as the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf are actively operating in the province, just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

In January, Abu Sayyaf gunmen intercepted a small boat carrying state teachers off Zamboanga City and seized the trio and brought them by boat to Basilan and freed in May after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransoms for their liberty. (Mindanao Examiner)

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