ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants abducted three people, including a pregnant woman, in a village in Patikul town in Sulu province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, authorities said on Sunday.
The trio was onboard a multi-cab when gunmen flagged down the vehicles on the village of Timpook on Saturday and seized them. Authorities identified the victims as Shariff Julhasan Abirin, Levi Gonzales and his wife Daniela.
Gonzales is said to be a technician working for Globe Telecom. His wife was only accompanying him when gunmen seized them.
There was no immediate statement from the telecom giant, but police have launched a search for the victims in an effort to recover all of them safely. Police said the ASG is likely behind the abductions, although no individual or group claimed responsibility for the incident.
Just recently, unidentified gunmen also seized a family of three after storming their house in Payao town in Zamboanga Sibugay province, just 110 kilometers east of Zamboanga City.
Police said the 42-year old Elmer Ronoc and his wife Nora, 44, a trader; and their son Ricson, 8, were taken from the village of Kulisap. The trio was believed spirited out on a motorboat, but it was unclear who carried out the abductions, although previous kidnappings in the area had been largely blamed on the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
No individual claimed responsibility for the latest incident, but police said a search is underway to rescue the victims.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops last week to intensify their anti-terrorism campaign, including operations against the Abu Sayyaf that is still holding more than a dozen mostly Asian hostages in the restive Muslim region.