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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

26 kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rescued

MANILA - Government forces rescued 26 people aboard a passenger jeepney (mini-bus) six hours after they were kidnapped by heavily armed members of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants on the island province of Basilan in volatile Mindanao, the military reported on Tuesday.

The military quoted the driver as saying he and the passengers were on their way to a remote village in the town of Ungkaya Baku, Basilan when the militants stopped their jeepney on Sunday morning.

The militants then ordered the driver to proceed to another village where a special team of soldiers aboard an armoured vehicle rescued them six hours after their abduction, according to the military.

“The armed men immediately scampered and fled towards a forested area when they spotted the impending arrival of the soldiers,” the military said, adding the 26 passengers had been traumatised by their abduction but were otherwise unharmed.

In a separate but related development, Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, the chief of Task Group Sulu, reported the arrest of an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader wanted for a series of killings in Basilan’s neighbouring province of Sulu.

Arrojado identified the suspect as Junni Jumala who did not resist when the soldiers arrested him in a village in Patikul, Sulu, on Monday afternoon.

Arrojado credited villagers for the arrest of Jumala who is wanted for a series of killings in Patikul and the capital town of Jolo as well as his alleged involvement in ambush of Patikul Vice Mayor Jun Tarsam who survived the attack in late December.

He said the villagers tipped off authorities on the presence in their area of Jumala who also surrendered a .38 calibre revolver and live ammunition when arrested, Arrojado said.

The Abu Sayyaf has gained notoriety through a series of kidnap-for-ransom cases involving foreigners and Filipinos that were often marred by the beheading of their hostages.

Regional and Filipino security experts have also confirmed the link of the Abu Sayyaf to the Al Qaeda global terror network through the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah extremists.

Separately, a special court called the Sandiganbayan has ordered the family of a businessman-crony of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos to return to the government at least $10 million in cash and other assets particularly land 24 years after they were indicted in a civil suit for amassing illegal wealth.

But in the same decision, the Sandiganbayan did not mention any liability on their part although Marcos, his wife Imelda and their children including their only son and namesake Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior were also indicted.

Senator Marcos, who is running for vice president in the coming May 2016 election less than five months away, expressed hope the decision would not affect his candidacy but refused to comment further, saying he has yet to get a copy of the ruling.

The ruling came 24 years after the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed in 1991 the civil complaint against the late businessman Alfonso Lim and his son and namesake Alfonso Junior to return to the government about $10 million in cash and properties in unexplained wealth.

Such wealth, the PCGG said, was amassed through illegal logging concessions covering a total of 534,000 hectares of forest lands awarded to Lim that exceeded the limit set by the Constitution at 100,000 hectares.

By Manolo B. Jara

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