THE Armed Forces is eyeing two angles in last Friday’s abduction of a British businessman and his Filipina wife in Zamboanga del Sur, including kidnapping for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf.
Allan and Wilma Hyrons were abducted by six men from their resort in Barangay Alindahaw, Tukuran town on Friday. The kidnappers fled aboard a waiting motorboat with the couple.
“Only one group conducts kidnapping in the area, the Abu Sayyaf,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Zamboanga City-based AFP Western Mindanao Command.
Sobejana also said investigators have persons of interest but would not name them so as not to compromise the investigation.
Sobejana said investigators are also checking if the kidnapping was related to the September 20 dismissal, for unknown reasons, of five teachers from the school owned by the couple. He was referring to the Hyrons College Philippines in Tukuran town where the couple has been living for 15 years.
“They dismissed five teachers so we’re investigating if that is related to the kidnapping…
We’re not discounting the possibility it’s related to the dismissal of the teachers. Their (dismissed teachers) family may be retaliating, it’s personal,” he said.
Sobejana said that as of yesterday, no group has made contact to demand ransom but said the military is conducting sustained search and rescue operations.
He also said there is no indication the victims were brought out of Zamboanga del Sur.
“We’re concentrating on the mainland because it appears they’ve yet to proceed to Basilan or Sulu,” he said.
Basilan and Sulu are known bailiwick areas of the Abu Sayyaf which is notorious for beheading kidnap victims whose families refused to pay ransom.
“We have air, land, sea (operations). We have naval blockade. Our Navy ships are there.
We’re employing our ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capability. We’re also using our air assets and ground forces securing the coastal areas,” he said.
Sobejana also said Zamboanga del Sur Gov. Victor Yu has offered P1 million reward for information leading to the rescue of the victims.
“That is a big help. The money offered can motivate the people, ordinary people to report to authorities if they see the kidnappers with their victims,” he said.
Police Maj. Helen Galvez, spokesman of the Western Mindanao police, said a computer-generated sketch of one of the suspects was released based on CCTV footage taken from the resort owned by the Hyrons couple.
Galvez said one of the kidnappers is a male who is between 30 and 35 years, weighs around 75 to 80 kilograms, stands 5’4” to 5’6” tall, and of medium build.She said any information can be relayed through the regional police office’s hotline (0961) 297-70-64.
“The PNP and other law enforcement units are doing their best to find the victims,” Galvez also said.
Earlier reports said two of the suspects checked in at the Hyrons Resort at around 6:50 p.m. on Friday before two armed men appeared, at gunpoint, dragged the newly-arrived couple to the motorboat waiting at the beachfront. – With Raymond Africa