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Military, police launch offensives vs Drilon abductors

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Kidnap for ransom charges to be filed–official

By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
First Posted 10:54:00 06/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) The military and police will launch offensives against the abductors of a television news crew and a professor as kidnap-for-ransom charges were being readied against them after their victims were freed late Tuesday, officials said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “conduct massive manhunt operations” for the kidnappers of ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, her crew, and a professor, in Sulu after they were released late Tuesday night.

Also kidnapped with Drilon last June 8 were her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo. Valderama was released last June 12 after “board and lodging fee” was paid.

Armed Forces Chief Alexander Yano has ordered “punitive action” against the abductors, who have been identified as members of the Abu Sayyaf, said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief.

“The chief of staff issued a directive, he said that punitive actions will be launched against the kidnappers and other terrorists in Sulu,” Torres told a news conference at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday.

“We will be using the full might of the government forces in that area to go after them of course without unduly compromising the safety of the civilian communities in the area,” Torres said.

Yano ordered the punitive strikes before dawn Wednesday upon learning of the release of the three remaining hostages, Torres said.

Torres could not give an immediate estimate of the number of troops in
Sulu, composed of six Marine Battalion Landing Teams, elite Army forces, and contingents from the Navy and the Air Force.

A battalion is composed of roughly 500 troops.

Torres said there was no plan to augment military forces in Sulu, adding, “We have already enough troops on the ground, and it’s just a matter of focusing our operation, focusing all our efforts towards the accomplishment of this particular mission.”

Intelligence estimates placed the strength of the Abu Sayyaf at 380, most of them in Sulu, where the bandits are allegedly coddling Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants Umar Patek and Marwan.

Troops have identified the “general location” of the kidnappers of Drilon’s group, Torres said.

The hostage-taking also did not tie down offensives against the main
Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, Torres said, referring to the mortar attacks in the province last Sunday.

Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao police director, said Wednesday that all troops in the region were “in operation mode” against members of the Abu Sayyaf group, several of whom Drilon had identified in a photo gallery.

“We are on all out offensive against the kidnappers and the perpetrators of the crime. We have identified them through pictures and aliases,” said Goltiao in a phone interview.

Goltiao said police were also conducting checkpoints in the area and a gunban was being implemented.

At the same time, Goltiao belied reports that Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, who served as negotiator, and Dinampo were undergoing questioning because they were being treated as suspects.

“All of them are undergoing questioning, debriefing, even Ces. But it will all depend on the evidence gathered,” said Goltiao.

Drilon, Encarnacion, and Dinampo, along with Isnaji were flown to Zamboanga from Sulu via Philippine Airforce Helicopter. They arrived in Zamboanga around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, said Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman.

Bartolome said the group was brought to the PNP office where they were reunited with Valderama.

“They were later attended by Dr./Major Roberto Calupitan of CNGH, West Mindanao Command and his medical team. They were allowed to rest after a light hot meal,” Bartolome added.

It is not immediately clear what time Drilon and company will be flown back to Manila, he said.

Bartolome also said that kidnap for ransom charges were being readied against the abductors, including two who have been identified by authorities — Sulayman Patta and a certain Walid.

Police had released artist sketches of the two and said they were sure that both were with the group that abducted Drilon and her companions.

Bartolome said investigators were establishing and confirming the identities of the other kidnappers, adding that they are looking at a list of about 20 suspects.

With reports from Lira D. Fernandez,; Alcuin Papa, Inquirer

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-06-18T05:53:55+00:00UTC06bUTCWed, 18 Jun 2008 05:53:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

Posted in Uncategorized

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