Authorities search for kidnapped Australian
MANILA, Philippines—Security forces searched Tuesday for an Australian man who was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay, the latest in a rash of abductions that includes a South Korean who died of complications after a month in captivity.
Armed men abducted Warren Richard Rodwell, 56, late Monday in Ipil town, where according to his website he and his Filipino wife ran a store.
He may have been injured, based on bloodstains found near his residence, said regional police director Felicisimo Khu.
Military and police forces were trying to rescue Rodwell after his abductors took him in the direction of the nearby coast in an attempt to flee by boat to neighboring islands where they usually hide, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said.
In the Australian capital of Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday that her government had established a task force to investigate the kidnapping. Such task forces typically include trained hostage negotiators.
Gillard said the Australian Embassy in Manila was working with local authorities to establish the facts.
Zamboanga Sibugay province was the scene of heavy fighting in October when government troops overran a camp of Muslim rebels and outlaws suspected to be behind a series of kidnappings.
They suffered some casualties, but the main group of the original 100 guerrillas scattered and are still believed to be active.
The violence is linked to a decades-old Muslim rebellion for self-rule in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.
A cease-fire with the main rebel group has held since 2008 despite recent clashes. Other groups, including al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, have staged their own attacks and ransom kidnappings.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is on a US list of terrorist organizations, is believed to be holding since July an American teenager whose Filipino-American mother was released in October after they were snatched near southern Zamboanga city and brought to Basilan Island. The militants are also holding an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese, along with several Filipino hostages.
Last week, one of three South Korean businessmen who were released from a month of captivity in a nearby province died of complications from an internal infection, police said Monday.
Choi Inn-so, 52, died in a hospital in southern Cagayan de Oro city after undergoing surgery. He was abandoned by his kidnappers November 24 in Lanao del Sur province, said Cagayan de Oro police chief Gerardo Rosales.
Quoting Choi’s doctor, Rosales said the businessman developed an infection in his lungs, kidneys and heart. It was possible he got sick while in captivity, he said. The other two hostages were released unharmed.
It was not clear who was responsible for their abductions.
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