A Sri Lankan peace activist became the latest victim of a wave of kidnappings in the southern Philippines blamed on al-Qaeda-linked militants, officials said yesterday.
Omar Jalil, 36, from the nonpartisan group Nonviolent Peaceforce, which has been monitoring a Muslim separatist uprising in the Philippines, was taken by nine gunmen from his residence in coastal Lamitan on Basilan island early yesterday, Basilan police chief Salik Macapantar said.
The Filipino caretaker of the house managed to escape unharmed even as the gunmen opened fire, he said.
The caretaker was now guiding the navy and marines in combing the jungle hinterlands of Lamitan to try to locate the hostage, provincial vice governor Al-Rasheed Sakalahul said.
Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, notorious for ransom kidnappings and terror attacks, are holding three teachers and a lending company employee on Basilan as well as three Red Cross workers, including one Swiss and one Italian, on nearby Jolo island.
All were kidnapped this year, apparently as part of efforts by Abu Sayyaf to raise badly needed funds after several of its leaders with connections to Middle Eastern financiers were killed in US-backed offensives in recent years.
Abu Sayyaf, which has more than 300 fighters, is on a US blacklist of terrorist organizations because of links to al-Qaeda and its involvement in kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.
At least two militants holding the three Red Cross hostages were killed and nine marines wounded in a clash on Monday when the captors attempted to break through a military cordon that has boxed them in, Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan said. The hostages were believed to be unhurt, he said.
Officials have been hesitant to resort to a military rescue and have asked about 30 Abu Sayyaf gunmen to surrender their captives unconditionally. Speculation has mounted about a ransom demand ranging from US$5 million to US$10 million.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread