ZAMBOANGA CITY: One of the five loggers kidnapped by a local criminal group in Zamboanga del Norte on March 3 was killed in a crossfire during a hot pursuit operation by security forces in Sirawai town.
Officials said the body of the slain hostage identified as Mario Rosales was recovered late on Wednesday afternoon by the pursuing soldiers.
The fate of his companions remains unknown, but soldiers and policemen were running after the bandits who escaped during the firefight.
Security forces recovered an M1 Garand rifle and a caliber .45 pistol left behind by the gunmen who fled toward the neighboring town of Siocon.
The loggers were seized in the town’s hinterlands and their abductors originally demanded P10 million for the freedom of the hostages but eventually reduced to P75,000 or P15,000 for each captives.
Officials said the bandits are led by Jamilon Wahab Tukalan and Bating Lumiguis, who are wanted for string of robbery and kidnapping cases.
“A hot pursuit against the kidnappers is ongoing,” Chief Insp. Helen Galvez, regional police spokesman, said.
It was not immediately known whether the gunmen are members of a rebel group in the province, a known lair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.