ZAMBOANGA CITY – Former Moro rebels abducted a dozen people in a raid on a village in Basilan.
Officials said Friday 50 gunmen from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) stormed the village of Bohe Baca in Tipo-Tipo town on Thursday afternoon and seized the villagers.
Among those taken by the raiders were seven minors, including an infant.
Colonel Rodrigo Gregorio, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, identified 11 of the hostages as Faija Banua, 44; Satra Banua, 13; Haide Banua, 9; Dalma Ambihal, 50; Alsaima Buddiman, 15; Binbin Banua, 9; Hapsa Ambihal, 28; Kalipa Ambihal, 22; Fathma Buddiman, 5 months old; Pasri Ambihal, 2; and Haipa Ambihal, 5.
He said four of the minors were freed following negotiations led by Lieutenant Colonel Paolo Perez, commander of the 18th Infantry Battalion, and village officials.
“As of press time, negotiations for the safe release of the remaining hostages are still ongoing,” Gregorio said.
The group was headed by MNLF leader Hassan Duwalay, alias Commander Addang, whose three daughters – Umma, Kelma and Pubu Duwalay – had been abducted also on July 9 in Lamitan City in Basilan.
It was not immediately known whether those being held by former rebels had anything to do with the disappearance of the Duwalay sisters, whose fate remains unknown.
The military suspects the abduction of the villagers was connected to a long family feud.
Just recently, some 500 MNLF members, many of them armed with rockets and automatic weapons, marched unannounced through Lamitan City, sending residents into panic. The show of force caught local authorities by surprise.
MNLF leaders said the march was part of their peace consultation in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. The show of force was unprecedented in recent decades.