Sunday, December 05, 2010

Basilan gunmen swap 2 hostages for abducted kin

A photo released by Basilan provincial deputy governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul shows the official meeting with two hostages - Umma Tahil and Hamja Tahil – freed by gunmen headed by Pawi Hambali after the victims’ relatives seized three of the gang leader’s kin on Sunday, December 5, 2010 in Basilan province in Mindanao to force the kidnappers to swap hostages. (Best available photo / Mindanao Examiner).

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 5, 2010) – Gunmen have freed Sunday 2 of the remaining hostages they seized in the strife-torn province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the two, who were part of a dozen people seized last month, had been released after relatives of their victims also abducted three of the gang leader’s kin and swapped them for the duo.

The gunmen, led by Pawi Hambali, originally demanded weapons and money in exchange for the freedom of the two men who were kidnapped on November 27 in the town of Ungkaya Pukan.

Officials said a family feud stemming from a land dispute triggered the kidnapping.

“The two remaining hostages had been freed by Hambali in exchange for three of his kin also abducted by his victims’ relatives and family. There was a swap of hostages and all ends well,” the provincial deputy governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul told the Mindanao Examiner.

Pawali’s group released 10 of his hostages on November 30 after a series of negotiations by village elders, but held on to the two others. Sakalahul said Hambali seized the victims, mostly fishermen, thinking they were relatives of his foes and to force the other family to settle their feud. But it turned out that 10 of those abducted had nothing to do with the conflict.

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. The feud could sometimes last for decades and would often target innocent clan members. (Mindanao Examiner)

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