• Abu Sayyaf releases Basilan school principal

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abbu Sayyaf rebels released on Thursday the school principal they kidnapped in restive Basilan province.

    Benita Latonio, 60, principal of Manggal Elementary School, was freed on Thursday afternoon in Sumisip town where was abducted at gunpoint by five masked men on March 31.
    Details of her release were unclear, but kidnappers had earlier demanded a huge ransom in exchange for her freedom.

    Latonio was forcibly taken by the rebels while on board a passenger jeep at Sitio Mompol in Libug village, Sumisip town. The jeep was headed to Isabela City when it was flagged down by the unidentified gunmen.

    No individual or group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but intelligence reports pointed to Abu Sayyaf leader Juhaibel Alamsirul as behind the incident.

    The motive of the abduction is still unknown, but police and military have tagged the Abu Sayyaf in many cases of ransom kidnappings. The group has been raising money through kidnappings for the purchase of weapons and to fund future terror attacks.

    Authorities have repeatedly linked the Abu Sayyaf to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya which had been blamed in deadly attacks not only in the Philippines, but also in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia in an effort to establish a regional Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.

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