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KIDNAP

Philippines searches swamps for kidnapped Europeans

Philippine troops were scouring mangroves on remote southern islands on Monday as the search for two kidnapped Europeans intensified, security officials said.

Hundreds of naval troops and Marines have been deployed to search for Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, in the remote Tawi Tawi archipelago, said Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre.

The pair were snatched by an unknown group of gunmen on Wednesday while on an expedition to photograph rare hornbills in the wild, but government forces have since found no sign of the pair.

“Our search efforts have intensified. There is no reason for us to believe that they have slipped past the naval blockade (around Tawi Tawi),” said Cenabre, deputy commander of the local Navy.

The authorities have not been able to pinpoint who carried out the abduction and where the captives are being held. There are vast seas around Tawi Tawi, which consists of more than 300 small islands bordering Malaysia.

“We do not know who they are what their demands are,” provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson told AFP.

“The group has not contacted us and we are still searching in the area.

“They (the kidnappers) have not said anything and we have not identified the group,” said Major General Noel Coballes, the regional military chief.

The southern Philippines has long been plagued by groups of outlaws who kidnap people to hold for huge ransoms.

The most feared of these is the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf which has been tied to the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.

In previous cases, armed gangs have turned their captives over to Abu Sayyaf, who have been known to behead their captives.

But Abu Sayyaf is not widely active in Tawi Tawi, raising hopes that the hostages may still be in the hands of ordinary criminals.

Abu Sayyaf, founded with seed money from Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, are based largely in the islands of Jolo and Basilan to the northeast of Tawi Tawi.

US troops have been based in the southern Philippines for a decade to help train local troops in hunting down members of the group.

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AL QAEDA

Swiss woman’s captors: Free bin Laden’s wives

A bid to release a Swiss woman kidnapped in Yemen has suffered a blow after her abductors made excessive demands, including for Osama bin Laden's widows to be freed, a tribal chief said on Thursday.

Yemen's capital, Sanaa
Craig BCN (File)

Al-Qaeda militants abducted the woman on March 14th from her home in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, where she had been teaching at a foreign language institute.

She was taken to far eastern Shabwa province.

Tribal chief Ali Abdullah Zibari said, however, that mediation efforts had so far failed because of excessive demands placed by her captors, including the release of bin Laden’s widows held in Pakistan.

Zibari said the Islamic extremists also demanded the release of several women held in Iraq and Saudi Arabia in return for the Swiss captive.  

“Their initial demands for the release of (former Al-Qaeda chief) Osama bin Laden’s wives held in Pakistan were rejected by Yemeni officials last week,” Zibari told AFP, adding the group then placed new conditions for the Swiss woman’s return.

“Now they’re demanding the release of 100 Al-Qaeda affiliated militants from Yemeni jails and €50 million ($66 million)… at which point the mediation efforts failed because of the prohibitive demands,” he said.

Zibari played a crucial role in the release last November of three French aid workers kidnapped by Al-Qaeda and held for five months.

Shabwa province is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, the Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law), which has expanded its influence in recent months, taking advantage of the political turmoil that has swept the country and forced the resignation of veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Kidnappings were common even before the uprising against Saleh’s rule that began last year.

More than 200 people have been abducted in Yemen over the past 15 years, many of them by members of the country’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips with the authorities.

Almost all of those kidnapped were later freed unharmed.

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