Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Security forces rescue kidnapped Filipino-Swiss in Zamboanga City

A journalist points to an undated police photo of Charlie Reith, 72, a Filipino with Swiss ancestry, who was rescued Thursday, June 16, 2010, on a village called Labuan in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. Reith was kidnapped April 4, 2010 by eight gunmen from his beach house in Patalon village in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Jung Francisco)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 16, 2010) – Security forces rescued Wednesday a Filipino with Swiss ancestry on a coastal village in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga, police said.

Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo, the local police chief, said Charlie Reith, 72, was rescued in Labuan village and that operations were going on to capture the kidnappers.

“Charlie Reith is rescued and there is still an ongoing operation in the area,” De Ocampo told the Mindanao Examiner.

De Ocampo did not give details of the daring rescue which began at 3 a.m., but he said security forces surprised the kidnappers that led to the rescue of Reith.

It was unknown if any of Reith’s kidnappers were captured by soldiers and police commandos.

De Ocampo did not say whether Moro rebels were involved in the kidnapping, but three photos of Reith’s captors the police previously made public showed one of them was involved in the kidnapping of Irish missioner Michael Sinnott in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province in October last year.

Sinnott, 80, was freed two months later in the village of Sangali in Zamboanga City after private negotiators paid huge ransom to the kidnappers, believed to be Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels who originally demanded two million dollars for the priest’s safe release.

Reith, who was kidnapped on April 4, was taken to hospital for medical examination.

Authorities said at least 8 armed men stormed Reith’s beach house in Zamboanga City’s Patalon village and seized him. His friend, German national Karl Reichling, managed to fight off the raiders. The kidnappers later demanded P20 million for Reith’s safe release and at one time threatened to cut off his finger if his family does not pay up.

A video sent several weeks ago by the kidnappers to his friends showed Reith, frail and bearded, reading the ransom demand inside a makeshift tent.

Reith’s father was married to a Filipino woman and his family owns a vast track of land in Zamboanga City.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for Reith’s kidnapping. But the military tagged MILF sub-leader Malista Malanca and Abu Sayyaf commander Khair Mundos as responsible for Reith’s kidnapping. Authorities have linked both groups to previous kidnappings and terrorism in Zamboanga.

Kidnappings-for-ransom in Zamboanga City were not uncommon. Many foreigners and wealthy traders had been kidnapped in the past and released after their family paid ransom. Among those kidnapped in Zamboanga City were Taiwanese, Belgian, German and Chinese citizens. (Mindanao Examiner)

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