Gunmen in south Philippines kidnap 16

Gunmen linked to a criminal gang have kidnapped 16 people, most of them teachers, at a graduation ceremony in a remote southern Philippine town, police said today.

The gunmen demanded freedom for their fellow tribesmen who were jailed following an almost identical hostage-taking in the same town in 2009 by suspects wanted for murder and abductions, said regional police chief Reynaldo Rafar.



The assailants in the latest kidnapping are former government militiamen turned bandits who seized the hostages yesterday at an elementary school graduation ceremony in Prosperidad town in the remote forests of southern Agusan del Sur province in the western part of Mindanao Island, Rafar said.



Most of those kidnapped were teachers, but there were two children aged 10 and 13 in the group, according to Senior Inspector Joel Solon Mendez of the provincial police.



Rafar said the gunmen immediately demanded the release of fellow Manobo tribesmen Ondo Perez and three others who are being held at the Agusan del Sur jail on charges of kidnapping and illegal possession of firearms in connection with the December 2009 hostage-taking, in which 47 villagers were held for several days.



Police sharpshooters were deployed around the area where the hostages were held and negotiations were under way, Rafar said.



Mendez said the estimated six gunmen holding the hostages had initially given a 24-hour deadline to release their four fellow tribesmen. But he said that as of this morning, they appeared to have softened their position on the deadline and demanded that food and water be delivered to them. Government negotiators have in turn asked for the immediate release of the children.



It was not clear whether the hostages were being held in an open area or indoors, Mendez said, adding that he was awaiting a progress report.



The gunmen's leader is a nephew of Perez, the head of the detained gang, Mendez said.



The latest hostage-taking took place seven months after a daylong kidnapping crisis in Manila ended in bloodshed. After a dismissed policeman took captive a busload of Hong Kong tourists to demand his job back, the Aug. 23 ordeal ended with police and the gunman opening fire, leaving eight hostages and the assailant dead and drawing international criticism to the police operation.



"I don't think we need to say this anymore, but the safety of the hostages should be the priority," presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said on government radio today.



She said the local crisis management committee involving the mayor and town officials "hopefully can handle this without anything untoward happening to the victims."



Police have said Perez and his men were former government militiamen who turned to banditry. They were accused of seizing the villagers in 2009 after two of Perez's relatives escaped arrest in connection with the killing of four members of a rival clan.



The 2009 hostages were freed several days later after intervention by Manobo tribal elders, and the gang leaders were arrested.



The restive southern Philippines is home to Muslim and communist rebels, and extortion and criminal activities are rampant.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Registered Manager

£33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This local charity has an oppor...

Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Content Curator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a mobile television network wi...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash