Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) yesterday ordered Task Force Sulu to conduct hot pursuit operations and possibly rescue an elementary pupil and two of his companions who were kidnapped Thursday morning in Jolo, Sulu.
Dela Vega also instructed TFS to conduct visibility patrols and set up checkpoints in strategic areas of the province.
Last Wednesday the victim, Zaire Khan Pasil, 10 years old, a student and resident of Sheik Mustafa Subdivision, Upper San Raymundo, Jolo, Sulu was forcibly taken by six (6) individuals riding-in-tandem on three (3) motorcycles along Latih-Jolo Road.
The victim along with Aldasir Tallow, driver, and Fatima Zaima Pasil, 13 years old, were on their way to Notre Dame Elementary School onboard an owner type jeep from their residence when the abduction occurred at 7:20 a.m.
The WesMinCom chief said the motive of the kidnapping is yet to be determined.
He said they are still trying to identify the suspects but said it was most probably the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf Groups..
He also said that until now the suspects have not yet contacted the family of the victims.
Kidnapping, for monetary or ransom, is a prominent risk for both foreigners and locals in Sulu and other provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Government forces have been battling Abu Sayyaf's presence in the predominantly Muslim provinces in south. In 2017, the Westmincom announced they had neutralized 352 terrorists from January 1 to December 31.
Of the total, 128 Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while 80 were apprehended, and 144 surrendered in the Western Mindanao area. Most of those who surrendered numbering to 70 were from Basilan, 53 from Sulu, and 21 in Tawi-Tawi. The troops also recovered and seized 223 firearms in 2017 from the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Last month, the military's WestMinCom announced since August 1 of this year, a total of 152 Abu Sayyaf Group members have already surrendered and laid down their weapons. Among which, 82 surrendered in Sulu, 63 in Basilan, 5 in Tawi-Tawi, and 2 in Zamboanga.
The five-month-long armed conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, that started on 23 May 2017, between state security forces and ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf also saw the death of more than 1,000 militants.
The Abu Sayyaf Group is still holding several foreign hostages, including a Dutch national and three Indonesians, as well as Filipinos in Sulu.