TWO GERMANS MISSING IN PALAWAN

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TWO Germans on board a yacht went missing in the high seas between Palawan and Sabah, raising fears that they were abducted by Abu Sayyaf members, a notorious kidnap-for-ransom group.

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Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda on Tuesday identified the missing as Stefan Victor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55.

Deveraturda said that based on the record of the Philippine Coast Guared, the victims left Palawan for Sabah on April 25 after going island-hopping in Mindanao.

Deveraturda said the yacht has been recovered but the Germans were nowhere to be found nor somebody claimed responsibility for their disappearance.

“It is confirmed. They were on their way back to Sabah after island hopping. We have a report from the Coast Guard that they went to Palawan, then to Sabah,” he said.

“It must be confirmed who are holding them, so everything is still open or possible. We don’t want to discount anything because our contacts have not yet confirmed [if they have been abducted],” Deveraturda added. “So we are still exerting effort. In the meantime, we consider them as missing persons.”

Last month, Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped Gau Huayon, a 29-year old female tourist from Shanghai, China, and Mercelita Dayawan, 40, a Filipino hotel staff at the Singmata Reef Resort in Sabah.

The AFP confirmed that the victims were seized by seven fully-armed men belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala identified one of the abductors as Murphy Ambang Ladia alias Haji Gulam, who according to military records, was a former member of the rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who later joined the ASG unit operating in the Tawi-Tawi area.

Gau and Dayawan have yet to be released by their captors. Based on intelligence reports, they are kept in Abu Sayyaf’s jungle stronghold in Sulu, where several other kidnap victims are held until they comply with the ransom demand of the group.

The ASG is notorious for beheading their victims who failed to come up with ransom money for their release.

The incident was similar to the April 23, 2000 Sipadan kidnapping wherein 21 tourists were also abducted by ASG members and brought to their hideout in Jolo, Sulu.

In 2001, the ASG also abducted 20 people at the Dos Palmas Resort in Honda Bay, Palawan that resulted in the deaths of at least five hostages, including two American nationals, Guillemo Sobero and Martin Burnham.

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