KIDAPAWAN CITY: Jihadists abducted six non-Muslim sawmill workers in the hinterland of Butig town in Lanao del Sur they suspected to be “spying” for the government.
Local military and the police officers said the abduction occurred at about 11 a.m. on Monday in a sawmill located at Purok 4, Barangay Sandab, Butig. They belied reports that the victims were government agents.
Initial investigation showed that gunmen seized the lumber site, captured the workers and brought them to an undisclosed site near the camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The Marawi City-based Army 103rd Infantry Brigade headed by Col. Roseller Murillo identified the victims, five of them surnamed Hanobas – Tado, Buloy, Makol, Gabriel and Adones Hanobas, and a certain Isoy.
No ransom was demanded as of Wednesday, but authorities were readying a rescue mission if negotiations fail.
It was believed that the abducted workers have been residing in the area for years, since the time of the late Alim Abdulaziz Mimbantas, founding member of the MILF.
The military said it was coordinating with local MILF leaders, who are negotiating the possible release of the hostages.
They suspected the group of “Maute brothers” to be behind the abduction.
It added that the plight of the victims was not certain in the hands of their abductors, who are IS supporters that pledge allegiance to the international group also known as ISIS or Daesh.
The group was driven away from their main camp in Butig during a 10-day military offensive in February.
After the aggression, the group calling themselves Dawlah Islamiya or Islamic State released over the Internet a video reaffirming their loyalty to the movement and named Abdullah Maute, alias Abu Hassan, as their leader in Lanao del Sur.
They were previously known as the Khilafah Islamiya Movement (KIM) that had staged atrocities in Mindanao.
In the video, authorities identified that Maute was with the leader of the KIM Humam Abdul Najid, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Faris al-Mulathim, and other top leaders of the militants.
Other sources said the groups’ covert unit, Ghuraba (strangers or foreigners) was part of the armed militants.
Last month, other IS-inspired militants in Sarangani province captured and beheaded a 43-year-old man they suspected of being a government spy.