Saturday, July 17, 2010

Philippine security forces search for kidnapped Japanese man

Muslim children dive from a boat anchored off Pangutaran Island in the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. Police and military say a Japanese citizen was abducted by 10 armed men on the island Friday, July 16, 2010. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 17, 2010) – Security forces continue to search for a Japanese national who was abducted by gunmen on a remote island in the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines, officials said Saturday.

The foreigner, who officials identified as Amer Katayama Mamaito, was taken by at least 10 armed men on Friday on a fishing village called Bangkilay on Pangutaran Island. “We have no reports yet about the Japanese, or where he was taken or who were behind the abduction, but the military is gathering more information about the incident," said Army First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.

Police forces were also gathering intelligence about the abduction.
“Our forces are still out and searching for the foreigner. We still have no reports about his whereabouts,” said Chief Inspector Amil Baanan, the deputy chief for operations of the Sulu police force.

He said little was known about the background of the Japanese, but other reports said Mamaito has been searching for treasure on the island, north of Sulu province.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief, said they would form a task force to handle latest abduction. “We will activate the crisis management committee and form a task force to give the background of the victim and also to monitor the incident,” he said.

Last year, Abu Sayyaf militants abducted three international aid workers in Sulu and freed them one after the other in exchange for ransoms. It was unknown whether the Abu Sayyaf was involved in the latest abduction, but authorities have linked the group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya to previous kidnappings for ransom in the restive southern region.

In 1998, militants also abducted two Hong Kong and a Malaysian fishery workers on an island in the Sulu archipelago and freed them months later after their employers paid huge ransoms. Two years later, the Abu Sayyaf also raided a Malaysian resort island off Sabah and kidnapped 10 European holidaymakers and 10 resort workers and released them in batches months later in exchange for millions of dollars in ransoms. (Mindanao Examiner)

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