COTABATO CITY: A mall owner in this city has been kidnapped for the third time by still unidentified armed men at around 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday in front of his Sugni Superstores after a brief exchange of gunfire with his blue guards.
The victim, an Indian who owns a chain of department stores here and in nearby North Cotabato province is identified as Mike Khemani.
Police said he has been kidnapped in 2007 and 2009.
However, Cotabato police did not say that his release from the kidnappers in the previous incidents was because of ransom payment.
Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Cotabato City police chief, said ongoing hot pursuit operations are being launched to rescue Khemani believed to have been brought to Maguindanao’s Liguasan Marsh area.
Balquin said three to five armed men on board a black Toyota Corolla without license plate was seen parked in front of the victim’s store along Bonifacio Street.
However, witnesses also said that there were two getaway cars and sped away in different directions to divert the attention of law enforcers. One of the getaway cars police found abandoned found no trace of the victim; the other car that went into the direction of the Cotabato old supermarket and the Rio Grande de Mindanao river was abandoned at the so-called bagsakan area.
Witnesses who begged not to be identified said the armed men upon alighting from the getaway car grabbed a motorized banca and even told passengers to jump into the river and sped towards the direction of upstream Kabuntalan town also in Maguindanao province.