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13 Feb 2009 12:11
A Sri Lankan peace advocate was kidnapped on Friday in the southern Philippines, police and military officials said.
Omar Jaleel (36) was seized before dawn by unidentified gunmen inside his rented house in Lamitan City in Basilan province, 900km south of Manila, according to provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar.
The victim is a volunteer with the Belgium-based NGO Global Nonviolent Peaceforce, which sends civilian peacekeepers to conflict areas around the world, such as Basilan.
In a statement posted on its website, the Nonviolent Peaceforce called for Jaleel’s immediate and unconditional release.
“Nonviolent Peaceforce does not pay ransom and requests all parties concerned to seek a nonviolent return,” it said.
“Nonviolent Peaceforce, a neutral NGO, is doing all it can to ensure his safe release and urges Omar Jaleel’s captors to release him unharmed and as quickly as posssible,” it added.
The organisation said it has already set up communication with the family of the victim in Sri Lanka to keep them up to date on the development’s relating to the kidnapping.
Macapantar said about nine heavily armed men barged into the house of the victim and forcibly took him to a waiting van. He added that Jaleel’s Filipino companion was able to escape and called for help.
Jaleel is the latest victim of a kidnapping spree in Basilan, where Abu Sayyaf rebels are still holding captive three Filipino teachers and a nine-year-old boy, who were seized in separate incidents recently.
Government troops have launched a search and rescue operation for the seized Sri Lankan.
Checkpoints have been tightened around Basilan.
Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo said that based on the testimony of Jaleel’s companion, the gunmen were teenagers.
Arevalo said a special marine company would be dispatched to Basilan to help augment the security in the province, a known lair of al-Qaeda-linked Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels.
“We are saddened and enraged by this kidnapping,” he said.
On nearby Jolo island, Abu Sayyaf rebels are also holding captive three staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross—Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.
The three were abducted on January 15 after visiting the provincial jail in preparation for the implementation of a water and sanitation project.—Sapa-dpa
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