Abu Sayyaf bandits seize school principal – Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines

Written by Bong Garcia Jr. / Correspondent

Tuesday, 20 October 2009 22:24

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Heavily armed men believed to be members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf on Monday afternoon seized a public-school principal.

The principal’s kidnapping happened barely a week after an Irish missionary priest was abducted in Zamboanga del Sur.

Maj. Ramon David Hontiveros, Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said the school principal identified as Gabriel Canizares, 36, was abducted at about 4:20 p.m. on Monday in barangay Tanum, Patikul, Sulu.

Hontiveros said Canizares, along with other teachers, was aboard a passenger jeep traveling from barangay Kanague, Patikul, en route to the capital town of Jolo, when at least 12 Abu Sayyaf bandits stopped the vehicle in barangay Tanum and seized the school principal.

Hontiveros said Canizares, a resident of barangay San Raymundo, Jolo, is the principal of Kanague Elementary School.

“The abduction occurred at Kilometer 7, barangay Tanum, Patikul. Canizares was with his coteachers in the jeepney, and he was the only one abducted,” Hontiveros said.

He said Marines and military intelligence agents stationed in Sulu are hot on the kidnappers’ trail to locate the whereabouts of Canizares.

Canizares’s abduction came a week and one day after Irish missionary priest Fr. Michael Sinnott was seized by six gunmen in barangay Gatas, Pagadian City, the capital of Zamboanga del Sur.

Sinnott, 79, a member of the Mission Society of Saint Columban (MSSC), was seized on October 11 from the Columban compound.

Lt. Col. Gamal Hayudini, 4th Civil Relations Group chief, said the military received reliable information that some rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members are involved in the abduction of Sinnott although no group has claimed responsibility for the incident to date.

Hayudini said military authorities believe the kidnappers who seized Italian priest Fr. Gian Carlos Bossi in 2007 is the same group that abducted Sinnott.

Bossi was kidnapped by 15 gunmen on June 10, 2007, in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, and was released in the evening of July 19 of the same year in the then Karomatan, now known as Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mohammad Dolorfino, Wesmincom chief, said Sinnott was taken to the triboundary of Sultan Naga Dimaporo and Nunungan towns in Lanao del Norte and Pikong in Lanao del Sur.

“Of course it is expected that the MILF leadership will vehemently deny that some of its guerrillas are in cahoots with rogue MILF elements in the spate of kidnappings in the region, but the military has all the reliable information that the truth cannot be denied that some rogue MILF members are indeed involved in the kidnapping of Father Sinnott and other kidnapping incidents,” Hayudini said.

The police have come out with the artist’s sketches of five of the six gunmen who seized Sinnott based on the description given by some informants.

Two of them were identified as a certain Kumander Nasser and a certain Bay.

The Crisis Management Committee handling the abduction of Sinnott has expressed concern over the health condition of the hostage, who needs to take medicines daily.

Hayudini said Sinnott has undergone a heart bypass operation last year in Cebu.

Fliers were distributed in the two Lanao province indicating the contact persons and numbers so that medicines could be sent for the hostaged priest.