ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 29, 2008) – Two motorcycle gunmen snatched a four-year old girl as she was playing with other children in the southern Philippines island of Basilan, police said Monday.
Police said Andrea Diman was seized Sunday night near a park in Lamitan City, where kidnappers also snatched a nine-year old girl, Nicole Raveche, on Nov. 26.
"We still do not know the motive of the abduction. Policemen are searching for the girl, who belongs to a poor family," said Chief Inspector Rolando Democrito, the city police chief.
Nick Castro, an aide of Lamitan City Mayor Roderick Furigay, said the Diman’s family is poor and her parents work as street sweeper and shoe maker. "Diman's family is poor and we don't know why their girl was abducted. Mayor Furigay is concerned about her safety," he told the Mindanao Examiner.
No group or individuals claimed responsibility for the latest abduction, but authorities previously linked the Abu Sayyaf in past kidnappings in Basilan, south of Zamboanga City.
There were no demands for ransom, police said, but Raveche’s kidnappers have asked six million pesos in exchange for her safe release.
Last week, kidnappers freed a nursing student, Joed Pilangga, after more than two months in captivity in Basilan.
The 17-year old Pilangga was kidnapped Oct. 17 in Zamboanga City and brought by boat to Basilan, where his kidnappers demanded P20 million ransoms for his safe release. Police and military tagged the Abu Sayyaf as behind the kidnapping.
Early this month, gunmen also kidnapped seven construction workers in Basilan, but freed all of them a week later after Mayor Furigay negotiated for their release.
Two more people were people were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on December 2 near Maluso town also in Basilan island, but they had been freed three days later.
Military offensive since early this month have targeted the Abu Sayyaf, but the larger rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, had been dragged into the skirmishes after it accused government troops of attacking its positions on the island.
In retaliation, the rebels launched a series of attacks against government forces, sparking sporadic, but fierce fighting that killed five marines and wounding two dozen soldiers in Al-Barka town.
The military accused the MILF of coddling Abu Sayyaf terrorists and vowed to step up the operation against the militants.
More than a dozen people had been kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants headed by Puruji Indama and Nur Hassan Jamiri in recent months and most of them had been freed in exchange for huge ransoms.
The sudden rise in kidnappings and spate of terrorist attacks in Basilan had been blamed to ransoms collected by the Abu Sayyaf. The money had been used to purchase weapons and recruit members, according to military reports. (Mindanao Examiner)