Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf was behind Monday’s disappearance of Sulu provincial treasurer Jesus Cabelin but were still uncertain as to the motive of the abduction.
“He was taken allegedly by the group of Julli Ikit and Ninok Sappari,” Brig. Gen. Jose Johriel Cenabre, Task Force Sulu commander said.
Sappari is considered as among the notorious Abu Sayyaf members and has been linked to several incidents of abduction in the island-province, including the March 2012 disappearance of Indian national Viju Kolara Veetil and six health workers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The victims were later freed after ransom had been allegedly paid.
Cenabre said Cabelin was inside his quarters at the Sulu provincial capitol in Barangay (village) Bangkal in Patikul town when the suspects barged in around 6:45 p.m. They dragged him into a waiting vehicle.
Cenabre said responding policemen had caught up with the abductors and engaged them in a firefight but that the suspects managed to flee toward Barangay (village) Danag, also in Patikul, aboard a Tamaraw jeep.
The Sulu police said a pursuit operation was immediately launched and now also involves members of the Jolo Internal Defense Force and Marine soldiers.
Cabelin was the fourth kidnap victim in violence-prone Sulu since Oct. 22, when hardware store owner John Archie Hablo Jr. was also snatched.
Hablo was forcibly taken by seven armed men as he was going home to Patikul from his store in Jolo town.
On Nov. 5, two workers for a telecommunications project of Globe Telecoms were also abducted by armed men in Patikul.
Yoly Crisanto, Globe’s corporate communication head, said the two victims were technical staff of QTel, a Globe contractor.
The Abu Sayyaf, a ragtag band of self-styled Islamists has become notorious for its kidnapping activities.
When in the past it has targeted foreigners, the group now targets mostly locals.