DAVAO CITY: The police and military arrested on Sunday one of the alleged Abu Sayyaf who kidnapped a former Italian missionary in a joint operation in the Southern Philippines, officials said.
Retired Catholic priest Rolando del Torchio was abducted at his pizza restaurant in the southern city of Dipolog on Mindanao island last October. He was released unharmed on the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo island in April. Authorities had earlier said they suspected that del Torchio was abducted by local gunmen who handed him over to the Abu Sayyaf Group in Jolo, 230 kilometers (143 miles) to the southwest.
Security forces tracked down Abner Mulok alias Kumander Red Eye in his hideout Kaliantana village in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Naga town. Mulok is said to be a follower of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan in Sulu province, serving as a “spotter” for probable kidnap victims in Zamboanga region.
“Mulok has a direct link to Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan and is allegedly being utilized by the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf in many kidnapping operations in Zamboanga Peninsula. The subject was arrested by the military and police by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the kidnapping of Italian former priest, Rolando del Torchio,” said Army Major Filemon Tan, a spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
The 57-year old del Torchio was kidnapped by Mulok’s group on October 7, 2015 and brought to Sulu until his release six months later.
Del Torchio was already on a ferry bound for Zamboanga City when security forces learned about his release and immediately picked him up, and brought him to an Army base in Sulu. He worked as a missionary in 1984 with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions until 2001.
Tan said military and police operations against the Abu Sayyaf are continuing in an effort to free several foreigners still being held by the Islamic State-linked rebel group in the Southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf murdered a Canadian hostage in April but subsequently released 18 Indonesian and four Malaysian captives.
The group still holds another Canadian man, a Dutchman and a Norwegian, along with five Filipinos, the military said.
The kidnappers have threatened to kill either the Canadian or the Norwegian hostage if a multi-million dollar ransom is not paid by today.
WITH REPORT FROM AFP