Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zamboanga trader abducted at sea

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 17, 2010) – Gunmen seized a local trader Thursday while traveling at sea in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines where security forces are pursuing kidnappers a Filipino-Swiss.

Police said the victim, Vicente Barrios, was abducted by gunmen after he was intercepted at sea. Barrios was with several companions aboard a motorboat when gunmen on a speedboat intercepted them and seized the trader.

“We still don’t know the motive of this incident. We have dispatched forces to locate the victim,” Chief Inspector Ricardo Garcia told reporters.

The abduction occurred a day after police commandos, backed by soldiers killed one of three gunmen tagged as behind the April 4 kidnapping of Charlie Reith, 72, who was rescued early Wednesday in the coastal village of Labuan.

Police said the slain gunman, Habir Ibno Kais, was with two others who managed to escape, but security forces were pursuing them.

Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo, the city police chief, said security forces tracked down the trio in the neighboring village of San Ramon and clashed with them.

“It was part of our operation and Kais was killed in the firefight. There is pursuit operation going on to track down the other kidnappers of Reith,” he said.

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.

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.

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. (Mindanao Examiner)

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