Friday, September 25, 2015

VIDEO | Abu Sayyaf, not NPA, behind Samal kidnapping - Eastmincom chief

From the Website of INTERAKSYON

VIDEO | Abu Sayyaf, not NPA, behind Samal kidnapping - Eastmincom chief

Yachts moored at Oceanview Resort on Samal Island, from where three foreigners and a Filipina were kidnapped. (image from News5 video)

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED WITH VIDEO) The Abu Sayyaf Group, not communist rebels, are responsible for kidnapping three foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte on Monday, the head of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command said Wednesday.

“We have suspects but we have not identified them yet. And we are extending all our assistance -- air, ground and naval assets for the immediate capture of the terrorists, the ASG,” Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad told after attending a briefing at the Senate on the continuing lumad crisis in Mindanao.

He said 11 Abu Sayyaf gunmen were involved in the kidnapping, striking at the “least expected time,” 11 p.m., when most of the guests at the Oceanview Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak were already asleep on their yachts.

The gunmen seized Kjartan Sekkinstad, the Norwegian operations manager of the resort, Canadians John Ridsdell and Robert Hall, and Hall’s partner, identified only as Tess.

Speculation that communist rebels were responsible for the abductions was triggered by a note found investigators early Tuesday that said: "Katarungan ng aming (Justice by our) commander: by NPA."
But police and military officials doubted the involvement of the New People's Army, saying that it was not the style of the communist guerrillas to leave a note such as what the kidnappers had done.

Hot pursuit operations

Baladad said all military naval and air assets are scouring all areas in Mindanao “where we have reports on the presence of these terrorist groups. Our intelligence assets also have been mobilized to determine the probable area of the suspects.”

Although he said authorities have come upon “leads,” he declined to disclose operational details of the pursuit.
He also acknowledged that they have yet to identify who exactly the suspects are.
The Abu Sayyaf is known to have a loose structure of different bands led by sub-commanders who appear to act autonomously.
An Agence France-Presse report said the gunmen holding the hostages slipped past a naval cordon and escaped to the remote mountains of Davao Oriental province, Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, the region's deputy police commander, said Wednesday.

Elite army troops were trying to track the bandits while air force helicopters were readied for a possible rescue as the gunmen trekked into Davao Oriental, Aquino said in the report.

He said "intelligence" sources had informed police that the gunmen reached Davao Oriental on Tuesday night.

But he doubted the involvement of the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group responsible for the bulk of the kidnappings-for-ransom of foreigners since the early 1990s.

The outriggers used to storm the marina on Samal island were not a "signature" of the Al-Qaeda-linked group, because it typically used high-speed boats, he said.

The PNP Task Group Oceanview is looking at all angles to determine the group behind the abduction, including the Abu Sayyaf and even amateur kidnappers.
Composite sketch

On Wednesday, police released a composite sketch of one of the suspects in the kidnapping. Though not distinct, he was described as a male, between 20 and 25 years old, 5 foot 3 inches in height and dark complexioned.

The task group expects to enhance the CCTV footage of the abduction to determine the identities of other suspects.

Chilling footage from the resort's surveillance cameras emerged on Wednesday showing the gunmen walking their hostages along a jetty at the marina.

In the footage, broadcast by local television networks, a shirtless and bearded male hostage was seen shaking off the grip on his arm of one of the rifle-wielding men, but still not daring to try and run away.
The three others appeared to have been hauled from their beds, with one male hostage shirtless and with a blanket wrapped around his waist. The woman walking next to him was in a night gown.

The PNP task group belied reports that a boat found at Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental belonged to the kidnappers.

Though the hunt for the kidnappers was extensive, authorities admiited that their hands were tied because the Davao Gulf encompasses a large area.

Authorities defended the lack of security in the region since it was not the first kidnapping incident. In 2001, the Abu Sayyaf attacked the Pearl Farm but retreated when they were repulsed by the resort’s private guards.

Authorities said it was difficult to secure the Davao Gulf because some owners of private resorts did not cooperate with them.

The Oceanview Resort was temporarily closed on orders of its management.

Canada, UK issue travel advisories

The Canadian and the United Kingdom governments issued an advisory for their citizens against traveling to the Davao provinces and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) effective last Tuesday due to the “serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping”.

Among the areas where travel is banned are Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in ARMM; Zamboanga Peninsula and provinces of Saranggani, Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur (excluding urban areas of Davao City), Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental, Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Davao City was not included in the travel advisory, which also had no effect in a nationwide scale but Canadian and British citizens were told to exercise “high degree of caution”.

While the city was not included, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he could not do anything if foreign governments issued a travel ban for their citizens in the Philippines.

Wala ta’y mahimo. Talagang may nangyari dito (We cannot do anything. Something has really happened here),” Duterte said in an interview on Tuesday night at Grand Menseng Hotel.

The mayor said even if the Island Garden City of Samal was not part of Davao City, it is in Davao del Norte.

Kidnapping condemned

"Rest assured, our security sector will not stop until they catch this group," President Benigno Aquino III told reporters.

The president's assurance echoed comments made by the nation's leaders whenever a foreigner has been kidnapped, but the captives' releases have generally only been secured with ransom payments.

Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon condemned the kidnapping and called on “the Philippine National Police to ensure the safe return of these individuals to their families and arrest the perpetrators of this crime the soonest.”

Nevertheless, he called the Samal abduction an “isolated” incident in a “generally peaceful” Mindanao.
Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario echoed Drilon's condemnation of the incident.
“I am appealing to the perpetrators the immediate and unequivocal release of the hostages. I am asking them to be fair and to sympathize with their victims, as they are only here to enjoy what we have to offer in the province,” Del Rosario said. (With reports from Lilian C. Mellejor and Jessie L. Casalda, Philippine News Agency, and Dennis Santos, Agence France-Presse)
Here's a News5 video report by Ed Lingao: