Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gunmen raid plywood factory, seized 3 workers in Basilan province

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / November 10, 2009) – Unidentified gunmen raided a plywood factory before dawn Tuesday and abducted two workers in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said about 20 armed men disguised as soldiers barged into the factory and disarmed a guard and seized Michael Tan, 27, and Oscar Lu, 51, both Chinese-Filipinos working as caretakers of the Hitech Wood Craft Corporation in the town of Maluso. Another employee, Mark Singson, was also seized by the gunmen, said Basilan police chief Abubakar Tulawie.

A factory guard, Sakilan Lumayon, opened fire on the gunmen as they fled with the two captives, but it was unknown whether any of them was wounded or killed, said Al Rasheed Sakalahul, provincial deputy governor.

“We don’t know who was behind the abductions. There is an investigating going and security forces are tracking down the gunmen and their hostages,” Sakalahul told the Mindanao Examiner.

The motive of the abduction was unknown and no group has claimed responsibility for the daring raid. But Sakalahul said ransom could behind the abduction. “Ransom could be the reason behind the abduction of the two caretakers,” he said.

Police said the third hostage was a factory worker. "The gunmen took three hostages, Michael Tan, Oscar Lu and Mark Singson. Police forces are pursuing the raiders," Tulawie said in a separate interview.

The Abu Sayyaf and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front are both actively operating in Basilan and had been previously linked to many kidnappings for ransom in the province.

A faction of the Abu Sayyaf also beheaded a school principal Gabriel Canizares in nearby Sulu province after his family failed to raise two million pesos ransom. His severed head was found on Monday at a petrol station in the capital town of Jolo.

In September, Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan freed three kidnapped government teachers after private negotiators paid millions of pesos in ransom.

The teachers Noemi Mandi, Jocelyn Enriquez and Jocelyn Inion were released in separate places in the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan.

The trio was kidnapped in March 13 in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Naga town and brought to Basilan where they had been held captive. The kidnappers had threatened to behead the teachers if ransom was not paid.

Early this year, Abu Sayyaf militants also kidnapped three state teachers - Janette de los Reyes, Freires Quizon and Rafael Mayonado in Zamboanga City and held them in Basilan and freed four months later after private negotiators paid millions of pesos in ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)

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