Thursday, June 23, 2011

Indian national abducted in Southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 23, 2011) – Gunmen seized an Indian national who was only visiting the family of his Filipino wife in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, police said on Thursday.

Police have sent several teams to track down the foreigner who was identified as Biju Kolara Veetil, 36. “We are still awaiting reports about the Indian national and who was behind the abduction,” Chief Inspector Amil Baanan, the provincial deputy police chief for operations, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said four gunmen barged in the house of the Indian’s Filipino wife late Wednesday in the village of Tempok in Patikul town and seized the foreigner.

“At least four gunmen took the Indian from the house and dragged him away,” he said.

Baanan said the Indian man and his wife Elena Asanji were in Sulu to visit the woman’s family. “What we have learned is that the couple and their two children were only visiting the woman’s family, but this thing happened,” he said.

The motive of the abduction is still unknown, but previous kidnappings had been blamed by authorities to Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.

The military also deployed soldiers to track down the hostage, the second foreigners kidnapped since last month in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

“Marine elements in Sulu are conducting pursuit operation,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman.

A Malaysian national - Mohammad Nasaruddin Bensaidin - who travelled to Sulu to buy geckos was also kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants in the village of Kajatian in Indanan town.

The 38-year old Malaysian arrived in April from Kuala Lumpur and has been living in a house in Indanan town. The kidnappers have demanded P5 million ransoms for his safe release.

Last year, police said a Japanese man – Kayayama Mamaito - was also kidnapped in Pangutaran Island off Sulu province.

In 2009, Abu Sayyaf gunmen also kidnapped three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross – a Swiss, Italian and Filipino – who were inspecting humanitarian projects in Patikul town. They rejected offers by the military and police to provide them with security when gunmen seized them.

The government has repeatedly warned foreigners visiting Sulu to get in touch with authorities and get their police or military escorts because of threats of kidnappings for ransoms, but many of them ignored the warnings. (Mindanao Examiner)

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