ZAMBOANGA CITY – One of five loggers kidnapped by bandits in Zamboanga del Norte was killed in a crossfire after security forces clashed with the gunmen in Sirawai town, officials said Thursday.
Officials said the body of the hostage was recovered by soldiers late Wednesday afternoon and was identified as Mario Rosales. The fate of his companions remains unknown, but soldiers and policemen are pursuing the bandits who escaped during the firefight.
The loggers were seized on March 3 in the town’s hinterlands and the kidnappers originally demanded P10 million for the freedom of the hostages and eventually lowered this to P75,000.
Officials said Jamilon Wahab Tukalan and Bating Lumiguis headed the kidnapping. Security forces also recovered an M1 Garand rifle and a .45-caliber pistol left behind by the gunmen who fled towards the neighboring town of Siocon.
“There is a hot pursuit now,” said Chief Inspector Helen Galvez, a regional police spokeswoman.
It was not immediately known whether the gunmen were members of a rebel group in the province, a known lair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. AL JACINTO