Well-funded group behind Samal kidnaps

THE group that abducted two Canadians, a Norwegian  and a Filipina in a resort hotel on Samal Island in Davao City on Sept. 21 was described by a source as a well-financed group on Thursday.

The source said the group was also well-organized judging by the way it executed the abduction of Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian operations manager of the Ocean View Resort Hotel, the Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Hall’s Filipino girlfriend  Maritess Flor.

“They had the capacity to plan and to execute the plan using enormous resources and equipment,” the source said.

He made his statement even as Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Thursday the military and the National Police were continuing to pursue the kidnappers.

“The AFP and the PNP are relentlessly working on pursuing those behind the abduction while ensuring the safe return of the captives to their respective families,” Coloma told reporters.

“That is the focus of what we are doing right now.”

The abduction was initially attributed to Al-Habsi Misaya or Al-Bahil, a former Abu Sayyaf member from Jolo who later formed his own gang that now operates in the Zamboanga Sibugay area.

The source said planning the kidnapping from Sulu and then executing it in Davao City was not an easy task.

From Samal Island, the kidnappers whisked their captives to a waiting motor boat and cruised to Carmen, Panabo and Davao del Norte, and from there they used a vehicle to travel to Surigao, Butuan and Valencia in Bukidnon.

After Valencia they went to Kabacan in Cotabato, but nothing was heard from them until they reached Sulu. The kidnappers used the motor boat to travel to Carmen from Samal, and then they used another motor boat to travel to Sulu.

“They left the first motor boat in Carmen and then used another boat to transfer the victims to Sulu from Kabacan,” the source.

“It was a combination of sea and road travel.”

Al-Habsi Misaya or Al-Bahil is said to have replaced Al Bader Parad, an Abu Sayyaf commander who was killed in a firefight with soldiers in Maimbung, Sulu, on Aug. 9, 2007.

The kidnappers are said to be using Zamboanga Sibugay as their tactical basin and Sulu as a detention area for their victims. With Sandy Araneta

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