While it has confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was behind the abduction of a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker in a resort in Sabah, Malaysia, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains clueless on the whereabouts of the victims despite continuous extensive search operations in known bailiwicks of the extremist group.
Capt. Rowena Muyuela, the AFP-Western Mindanao Command spokesman, on Wednesday said their sea and land operations have been ongoing for more than a week, particularly in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Basuta), yet they still have no idea where the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers brought their victims.
“Our air, maritime and ground search is ongoing. We are utilizing all the available air assets and vessels, and ground troops have been deployed,” Muyuela added.
AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala earlier confirmed that the ASG was behind the kidnapping.
The victims—Gau Huayon, a 29-year-old female tourist from Shanghai, China, and Marcelita Dayawan, 40, were snatched from the Singamata Reef Resort in Sabah last week by seven armed men who sped toward the Philippine Sea and were believed to be hiding somewhere in the Basuta area, a known bailiwick of the ASG.
Zagala identified one of the suspected abductors as Murphy Ambang Ladia alias Haji Gulam.
Military records showed that Ladia was a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who later joined the ASG unit operating in Tawi-Tawi under Binang Sahirol.
The incident was similar to the Sipadan kidnapping on April 23, 2000 when 21 tourists were abducted by ASG members and taken to their hideout in Jolo, Sulu.
The ASG is notorious for beheading victims who fail to come up with ransoms in exchange for their release.
In 2001, it also abducted 20 people at the Dos Palmas Resort on Honda Bay, Palawan.
Military operations for their rescue resulted in the deaths of at least five hostages, including two Americans, Guillemo Sobero and Martin Burnham.