Four tourists have been kidnapped by a group of 11 gunmen, posing as fellow tourists, in the Philippines.
According to Aljazeera, two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager, and a Filipino woman were abducted by unidentified gunmen carrying pistols at a popular resort in the Southern Philippines.
Philippines army Captain Alberto Caber said the four individuals were taken during a raid on Monday night at approximately 11:30 p.m. from the Holiday Oceanview Samal resort on Samal Island, near Davao City, which is the largest city on Mindanao island. On Tuesday, Caber revealed that there were approximately 30 foreign tourists at the resort at the time of the raid, and they currently do not know what group was behind it.
— PatRiotchick (@PatOndabak) September 22, 2015
According to BBC News, the Canadian abductees were identified as John Ridsel and Robert Hall, and the kidnapped Norwegian was identified as Kjartan Sekkingstad. The Filipino woman is said to be the partner of one of the kidnapped Canadians, but her identity has not been revealed by the police.
— News Talk 770 (@NewsTalk770) September 22, 2015
The authorities said the gunmen spoke both English and Tagalog, the language widely used in the Philippines. Although two Japanese tourists tried to intervene, the kidnappers were able to flee by boat with their captives. Caber said a naval blockade was established to keep the captors from reaching any other islands. Not only were boats dispersed in the search, authorities on land and in the air were also included in the search.
“Unfortunately, the lead time that the abductors had and the darkness of night were able to cover the retreat of the abductors,” military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said.
While many parts of the southern Philippines have high levels of violence, the location of the resort where the tourists were staying is generally considered a safe area, according to the New York Times. Security footage showed the gunmen casually speaking English to the four people before they kidnapped them.
“[The abduction] is quite unusual because this is a tourist town, and among the places here in Mindanao, this is supposed one of the… safest,” freelance reporter Dean Bernardo told CBC News. “It is heavily secured.”
— Arab News (@Arab_News) September 22, 2015
“It appeared the foreigners were the targets, they were not taken at random,” he said. “There are many lawless elements in Mindanao, but it’s not clear which group is involved.”
The kidnapping on Monday marked the first time Westerners had been taken from Mindanao in over two years. The last time a kidnapping occurred was in 2012, when a Swiss national, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, and Ewold Horn, from the Netherlands, were taken while bird-watching.
“The majority of kidnappings in the Philippines are committed by criminal organizations and not by terrorist or insurgent groups,” said Matt Williams, country director in the Philippines for Pacific Strategies & Assessments. “It is a cash-and-carry business in the Philippines.”
Philippine authorities signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group, in 2014, but have since been battling with smaller groups. The conflict had lasted 45 years and had killed about 120,000 people and displaced more than two million.
More information will be released as it becomes available.
[Photo via Shutterstock]