PAGADIAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 28, 2012) – Government troops captured three gunmen in a clash Saturday with a notorious gang tied to the kidnapping of an Australian national in Zamboanga Sibugay province in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the troops raided the hideout of Waning Abdulsalam in the town of Naga, but the gang leader who was previously implicated in the kidnapping of Warren Rodwell, 52, escaped.
“We were not able to get Waning, but we captured three of his followers in a clash that lasted over 30 minutes. There is no report about Rodwell,” Army Colonel Gerry Barrientos, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, told SMH.
He said troops recovered weapons from Abdusalsalam’s hideout in the village of Mamagon.
Abdulsalam was a former commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is currently negotiating peace with Manila. Aside from Abdusalsalam, authorities also linked another MILF leader Barahama Ali to Rodwell’s kidnapping.
Rodwell was kidnapped in December last year by 6 gunmen disguised as policemen from his house in the seaside town of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay. He was reported by the police and military to have been brought to Basilan province, just several nautical miles from here, and also in Zamboanga Peninsula.
Authorities have not reported much on the progress of the operation to rescue Rodwell except that the kidnappers have been moving the former Sydney man from one hideout to another to avoid detection by the military.
The kidnappers have demanded $2 million ransom for the safe release of Rodwell, who married a Filipina, Miraflor Gutang, 27, last year in Ipil town. Both the Philippine and Australian governments rejected any payment of ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf.
Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Rommel Jalosjos has imposed a news blackout on the Rodwell kidnapping, although the kidnappers had contacted him several times to negotiate for the safe release of the foreigner.
The kidnappers sent photos and a video clip to Rodwell’s wife in December as proof of life, but the woman said they had no money to pay ransom.
In Basilan, Army Colonel Ricardo Visaya, the provincial military commander, said that Rodwell may have been smuggled out by the kidnappers to Zamboanga Peninsula due to their continued operations against the militant group Abu Sayyaf.
“We have no information or reports about Rodwell. There last information we have on him was that he was spirited out of Basilan to Zamboanga Peninsula due to the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Visaya overran the jungle base of Abu Sayyaf leader Puruji Indama in Sumisip town during a recent offensive. (Mindanao Examiner)
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