Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gunmen seize 10 people in Basilan province

A coastal village in Basilan, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 30, 2010) – Armed men seized at least 10 people on a coastal village in the troubled southern Filipino province of Basilan, officials said on Tuesday.

Officials said the incident occurred on November 27, but was only reported two days later after families of the hostages sought help from authorities. The vice governor of Basilan, Al Rasheed Sakalahul, said local villagers leaders are helping in the negotiations to free the hostages, mostly fishermen from the town of Ungkaya Pukan.

“This is an offshoot of a long time family feud and we are doing everything to peacefully resolve the problem,” Sakalahul said.

He identified the leader of the abductors as Pawi Hambali, whose family had a grudge with another Muslim clan. “They seized the fishermen to force the other family to settle a long standing feud,” he said, adding most of the hostages are relatives of Hambali’s foes.

The military declined to give any details about the abduction and army officials would not speak to journalists who were following the hostage-drama.

“The incident is being addressed by the crisis management committees of Ungkaya Pukan (town) and (Basilan) province,” Army Colonel Nicanor Dolojan, the local commander of military forces, said in a text message to journalists.

The governor of Basilan, Jum Akbar, could not be immediately contacted to give a statement about the deteriorating peace and order situation and is frequently out of the province.

Family feud or clan war is not uncommon in Basilan or in many parts of Mindanao, especially in Muslim areas where random attacks stemming from the conflicts occur.

Tens of dozens of people had either been killed or wounded in clan wars and the proliferation of illegal weapons and explosives have made it more difficult for authorities to prevent armed clashes among the protagonists.

The feud could sometimes last for decades and would often target innocent clan members. Last year, gunmen who were followers of a powerful clan had brutally murdered 57 people, including at least 32 journalists who were accompanying a political caravan in Maguindanao province in the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

Although most of the clan members had been arrested, their massive wealth and influence are still being feared by many in the region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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