By Oliver Teves The Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines Gunmen abducted two Canadians, including a former mining company executive, a Filipino woman and the Norwegian marina manager at an upscale resort complex on a southern Philippine island, sparking an air and sea search by authorities, officials said Tuesday.
At least 11 men armed with pistols and two rifles arrived on two motorboats and entered the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort before midnight Monday on Samal Island off Davao City, military and police officials said, citing witnesses and a security video that captured part of the kidnapping.
The gunmen attempted to seize an American and his Japanese companion on one of the yachts docked at the marina, but the couple resisted and escaped by jumping off the boat. The two suffered minor injuries as they struggled to break free from the kidnappers, police said.
Amid the commotion, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and the Filipino woman, Teresita Flor, rushed out of their yacht and were taken. Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was the resort’s marina manager, was seized when he approached to check what was happening, said Senior Supt. Samuel Gandingan, the police chief Davao del Norte province, which includes Samal Island.
Government forces later heard of the abductions and began a search.
“Unfortunately, the lead time that the abductors had and the darkness of night were able to cover the retreat of the abductors,” military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Manila.
Government forces on planes and helicopters were scouring the waters and coastal areas in the Davao Gulf. Two motorboats were found in nearby Davao Oriental province and authorities were trying to ascertain if they were the boats the kidnappers had used, Gandingan said.
Norwegian officials said they have been notified about the reported abduction but have yet to independently confirm it.
“We are obviously very concerned now,” Olav David Sekkingstad, the father of the abducted Norwegian, told the Bergens Tidende newspaper in Norway.
Ridsdel is the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of Canada’s TVI Pacific, where he is still a consultant, a company officer said.
There were no immediate booking cancellations and departures of tourists on Samal island although resort operators expect a drop in the number of visitors once news of the abductions spreads, said Araceli Ayuste, who operates two resorts.
No group has claimed responsibility. Muslim and communist rebels, al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and criminal syndicates have been active for years in the restive southern region due to weak law enforcement in rural areas despite years of on-and-off government crackdowns.
Communist New People’s Army guerrillas are active in the hinterlands of the Davao region, about 975 kilometres (610 miles) southeast of Manila, where they have denounced foreign mining operations and military counterinsurgency assaults.
Abu Sayyaf militants are notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom in the vast Mindanao region. In 2001, Abu Sayyaf militants tried unsuccessfully to seize hostages from the Pearl Farm Beach Resort south of Ocean View during a ransom-kidnapping spree.
The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a diving resort in neighbouring Malaysia in 2000, then abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos the following year from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province southwest of Manila.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen are still holding other hostages, including two Malaysians, a Dutch bird watcher kidnapped nearly three years ago, and a town mayor. All are believed to be held by the militants in their jungle bases in southern Sulu province.