5,000 comb Tawi-Tawi in search of kidnapped Europeans

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Some 5,000 people from security forces and volunteers are now combing the western part of Tawi-Tawi in search of the two European birdwatchers abducted by unidentified gunmen on February 1 as their governments are increasingly worried about their safety, a top provincial official said.

“We have more than 3,000 hectares of forest here and the mission of that team is to make sure every part is inspected,” Governor Sadikul Sahali told the Inquirer by telephone on Friday.

The province is made up of 300 islands, the major ones of which include Tawi-Tawi, Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Simunul and Sibutu.

Sahali said the authorities were trying their best to locate Dutchman Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, and it was hoped that the deployment of more security forces and volunteers would yield positive results.

Horn, Vinciguerra and Filipino birdwatcher Ivan Sarenas were returning to Bongao, the provincial capital, from a 14-day sojourn in the municipality of Panglima Sugala on the biggest island in the Tawi-Tawi group when they were abducted at sea.

Their escorts, a policeman and a local official, were allowed to leave, along with the boat operator. Sarenas managed to escape by jumping overboard later that night and swam in the darkness toward another island where he was aided by fishermen.

“We are hoping there would be positive news in the coming days,” Sahali said.

He admitted that authorities in Bern and The Hague, the Swiss and Dutch capitals, respectively, were closely watching the developments in the search and rescue operations.

He said officials from the Dutch and the Swiss embassies in Manila have been frequently contacting him for updates.

“They keep on calling me every day; they want to know the progress of our efforts, they are very much worried over the safety of the two victims,” Sahali said.

Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said also that European diplomats were in close contact with him.

He said he would always tell them that the efforts were continuing and that the victims have not been sighted so far.

Sahali said they believed that the kidnappers and the victims have not gotten out of Tawi-Tawi yet.

He said had they done so, the kidnappers would have made contact  by this time.

“Probably, they would have made known their demand by now,” Sahali said.

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  • Anonymous

    Is that all what the government can come up with to find hostages and hostagetakers? They have to pit voluntares against armed bandits or even terrorist? What will happen if they stumble on their hideouts? More hostages taken?

    Can someone tell me which parts of country are under the control of the government? In Tawi-Tawi they can’t find hostagetakers, in Lanao provinces is rampant illegal logging even with a nationwide logging ban and so on and on.

    The president boasts about 10 Mill. tourist by 2016. Who will keep them save?

  • http://joboni96.myopenid.com/ joboni96

    people power
    security operations

    dapat gawin din ito
    kontra sa u.s. troops
    violating our constitution
    with their tagong stealth u.s. bases

    • Anonymous

      HE,  HE, HE, NPAs-BANDITS AY HINDI KAYA NG AFP MILITARY, KUNG WALANG TULONG LALONG WALANG MAGAGAWA ANG POBRENG PILIPINAS, TSK, TSK, TSK? KUNG HINDI BIGYAN NG “NAVY SHIP” AY VINTAGE 1940 PA RIN ANG GAMIT, TSK, TSK, TSK!

  • Anonymous

    these europeans & westerners know that it is never safe in Mindanao area except Davao City, so going to those area was a suicide without armed escorts and AK 47 to depend themselves, tsk, tsk, tsk?  or did they wanted to be kidnapped, ha? the AFP military & police can never be relied on for protections, they’re inutile, he, he, he! foreign tourists should bring with them mercenaries to protect them in visiting the mindanao area, tsk, tsk, tsk! you’ll never know who is the law enforcer, the criminals or the police-military?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CFZ2Q7RFJ6PWRYMM3NJ7JB4KSE Dynamic

    The motive of this type of crime (abduction) is not only terrorism but Ransom.That’s just my personal analizes.I hope you will one day find their real motives and whereabouts.If it was an act of terrorism,why would they excuse their friendly favorites?Are they “kumpares”?.

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