Gunmen holding three foreigners and one Filipina hostage slipped past a naval cordon and escaped to remote mountains in the southern Philippines, leaving few clues to their identities, police said yesterday.
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 province, a hotbed of Maoist and Muslim rebels, regional deputy police commander Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino said.
The gunmen seized the Norwegian manager of a luxury island resort on Monday night, along with two Canadian tourists and one of their local girlfriends. The victims were aboard yachts anchored at the resort’s marina.
“Rest assured, our security sector will not stop until they catch this group,” Philippine 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.
Adding to concerns about the captives, police yesterday said the gunmen had evaded a naval blockade around Samal Island, where the abductions took place.
The gunmen had sailed about 50km east to Davao Oriental, a poor region on the far southeastern edge of Mindanao Island close to Indonesia, with remote mountains and isolated fishing communities.
“Our scout rangers are following their tracks. They are on their trail. The air force is also helping, ready for insertion,” police commander Aquino told DZBB radio.
He said “intelligence” sources had informed police that the gunmen reached Davao Oriental on Tuesday night, but he acknowledged authorities still did not know the gunmen’s identities or motives.
“We are waiting for contact from the kidnappers so we will know their demands,” he said.
Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, were among those abducted, police said. The other foreigner was Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, and the woman was Hall’s 40-year-old Filipina girlfriend, identified only as Tess.
Chilling footage from the resort’s surveillance cameras emerged yesterday, showing the gunmen walking their hostages along a jetty at the marina.
In the footage, broadcast by local TV 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 nightgown.
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