Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kidnapped Basilan school principal is freed

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 14, 2010) – A kidnapped Filipino school principal has been freed late Tuesday after six weeks in captivity in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said Cecilia Sosas, who was kidnapped on November 15, had been reunited with her family. But the fate of another hostage, Rose Baranda, is still unknown.

It was not immediately known whether ransom was paid for the release of Sosas, who teaches at the Baas Elementary School in Lamitan town, but her captors had previously demanded one million pesos for her freedom. Her family said they could not afford to pay ransom.

Army Colonel Nicanor Dolojan, commander of the Special Operations Task Force-Basilan, said the woman was released near the village of Lagayas in Tipo-Tipo town.

“She is right now under the custody of the (provincial) vice governor (Al Rasheed Sakalahul),” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Both Sosas and Baranda, who is a trader, were kidnapped separately by Abu Sayyaf rebels under Nur Hassan Jamiri. The kidnappers demanded three million pesos ransom for Baranda’s safe release.

Authorities had linked Jamiri’s group to terrorism in Basilan and is on the list of the government’s order of battle.

Earlier this month, schools in Basilan were shut down due to threats of Abu kidnappings. The rebels had threatened to take more teachers, Sakalahul said.

Kidnappings-for-ransom are not uncommon in Basilan where dozens of people had been seized over the years and most of them freed in exchange for huge ransoms and those who cannot afford to pay are killed, oftentimes beheaded by their captors.

Two other factions of kidnap gangs in Mindanao also freed three of their hostages – two students and a salesman – in separate areas on Tuesday.

Authorities said Shiela May Vidal, 18, and Alcger Baricuatro, 19, who were kidnapped December 7 inside the compound of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province, were freed in the town of Piagapo.

The third victim, Edgar Cuajao, a 27-year old paint salesman, who was kidnapped in Cagayan de Oro City on December 7, was also released in Lanao del Sur. Ransoms were reported paid by private negotiators to their captors. (Mindanao Examiner)

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