Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Troops rescue kidnapped Zamboanga junk shop owner

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 21, 2010) – Government troops rescued Monday a kidnapped Chinese-Filipino trader in a daring raid on a hideout in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said four gang members were captured in the raid in Talon-Talon village where Vinton So was recovered at around 3:30 p.m. The raiders, led by Colonel Santiago Baluyot, commander of an anti-terror task force, swooped down on the gang’s hideout and rescued the 47-year old junk shop owner without firing any shots.

“It was quick. The kidnappers were surprised by the raid and we rescued Vinton So without any shots fired,” Baluyot said, adding, the rescue was part of an intelligence operation with the police.

He said the four kidnappers – two of them women – were being investigated if they have links with the Abu Sayyaf rebels, whose group is tied with the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, blamed for the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the restive region.

“Most of the kidnappers are from Jolo (town) in Sulu (province) and we still don’t know if they have links or members of the Abu Sayyaf. They are still being interrogated,” Santiago said.

Gunmen abducted So inside his junk shop in the village of Santa Maria on Sunday afternoon, but his family only reported the incident later in the day.

So was among several prominent people kidnapped this year in Zamboanga City where suspected Abu Sayyaf militants also seized Vicente Barrios, a fish pond operator; and Charlie Reith, a land owner. Both had been freed in exchange for ransoms.

Dozens of traders and businessmen in Zamboanga said they have also received threats from kidnappers and urged authorities to put efforts in protecting them.

Several people were also kidnapped in Zamboanga City in recent years and were released after their families paid huge ransoms.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf kidnappers are also holding two Malaysian seaweed farmers and have demanded two million ringgits in exchange for their safe release.

The duo - Tsen Vui Chung, 42, and his cousin Lai Wing Chau, 33, - were seized in February from their farm in the island of Pulau Sebangkit in Sabah and were taken to Tawi-Tawi province in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

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