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SULU – Security forces launched a rescue mission early Tuesday in the southern Philippine province of Sulu in an effort to recover a seven-year daughter of a Muslim trader kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi province last month.

Police, backed by soldiers, swooped down on a village called Pang in Kalingalang Caluang after receiving reports the militants and their hostage were spotted in the area. But the militants managed to escape with their victim, according to Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.

“The captors together with their victim fled to unknown direction leaving behind three high-powered firearms and war materials which include one M16 automatic rifle with banana-type magazine, and two M14 rifles with three magazines, and assorted military and PNP uniforms,” he said.

Abu Sayyaf militants seized the girl, whose surname is Astah, in the village of Himba in Tandubas Island on June 25 and shot and wounded her mother before escaping out to the open sea.

Besana said at least 7 militants were involved in the kidnapping. He said the navy was alerted by the escape of the militants. “Navy troops maximized intelligence monitoring and we have alerted the Naval Task Groups in all areas (in Sulu) to pre-empt possible landing of the fleeing bandits and rescue Astah,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the operation is continuing in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous, to rescue the girl. “We deeply sympathize with the family of the victim in the situation that they are in at the moment. Our troops and the PNP are doing their best to bring the victim back to her family,” he said.

Officials did not say how much ransom the Abu Sayyaf has demanded from the family in exchange for the girl’s freedom. (Mindanao Examiner)


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