A group of gunmen kidnapped tourists in the Philippines just before midnight on Monday at an upscale resort in the latest abduction in a string of incidents that have plagued the islands since 2000.
At least 11 armed men were involved in the kidnapping at the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort on Samal Island off the coast of Mindanao, a major southern island, according to The Associated Press
. They took four hostages — Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall; Teresita Flor, a Filipino woman; and the resort’s manager, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad — before slipping away on motorboats.
The abductions from Samal Island shook both tourists and natives alike because the resort’s location near the city of Davao is considered to be relatively safe, according to The New York Times
. Nearby Mindanao, however, has experienced multiple tourist kidnappings in the 21st century, the most recent of which occurred in 2012 when two Westerners were kidnapped while bird-watching. The islands have also experienced violent unrest between government troops and rebel Islamic extremists.
“The majority of kidnappings in the Philippines are committed by criminal organizations and not by terrorist or insurgent groups,” said Matt Williams, the country director for Pacific Strategies and Assessments in the Philippines, according to The New York Times. “It is a cash-and-carry business in the Philippines.”
The kidnappers’ identities still remain unknown, and authorities from the Philippines have no concrete reason to believe that Abu Sayyaf, one of the area’s most violent terrorist groups, was directly involved, CNN reported
. Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people from a diving resort in nearby Malaysia in 2000, and 20 more the following year from Manila, most of whom were tourists.
“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 said, according to the AP.
Government officials conducted an air and water search around the Davao Gulf in the wake of the abduction, but very little concrete evidence as turned up. Both Canadian and Norwegian officials have been notified regarding the abductions and they are working towards recovering the hostages.
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