• Seized trader freed, captors hold on to boyfriend

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: A Filipina trader who was kidnapped along with her boyfriend here has been freed in the town of Talipao, police said on Friday.

    Police said Nancy Gonato, 38, was released on Thursday afternoon, but the fate of Ronnie Sandagon, 50, remains unknown. The couple was kidnapped on April 7 inside a private wharf in the coastal village of Baliwasan where the couple runs a buying station for lobsters and other marine products.

    It was not immediately known whether ransom was paid for the freedom of the woman, but the kidnappers had previously demanded P10 million in exchange for the victims.

    Mayor Hussin Amin of Jolo said the woman was freed in Talipao town and then taken to the provincial hospital for medical examination shortly after meeting with government leaders and police and military commanders in Jolo. “Our security is tight in Jolo town,” Amin said.

    The couple owns a company called Ocean World Marine Products in Zamboanga City. The local police said at least 5 gunmen were involved in the kidnapping and the motive of could be connected to the couple’s business and huge debts.

    It was not immediately known whether the captors are members of the Abu Sayyaf which has been blamed by authorities for the spate of kidnappings for ransom in southern Philippines.

    No individual or group claimed responsibility for kidnapping of the couple, which occurred barely a month after the Abu Sayyaf freed a kidnapped Australian adventurer Warren Rodwell in exchange for P4-million ransom.

    Rodwell was seized by five gunmen, who posed as policemen, from his seaside house in Ipil town just outside Zamboanga City in December 2011.

    Basilan kidnapping

    Meanwhile, lawless elements have abducted two teachers in Basilan province, a known bailiwick of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.

    Col. Carlito Galvez, commander, 104th Brigade, said on Friday that the teachers were forcibly taken by the unidentified armed in their boarding house in Sitio Pangasaan, Barangay Tairan in Lantawan town and sped away onboard a speedboat towards southwest direction.

    The teachers were identified as Frederick Banot and Cherden Mason. The two were also member of Charity Children Foundatin, a Catholic non-government organization engaged in missionary effort to help the Badjao and Yakan children in Basilan.

    WITH REPORT FROM WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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