MANILA, Philippines - The Australian government has formed its own task force to secure the release of its citizen, Warren Rodwell, who was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay last Dec. 5, the military has learned.
However, Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, 1st Infantry Division commander, said the Australian task force is not necessary since a team from the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response is handling the case of the 53-year-old Rodwell.
“It (Australian task force) is not recognized by the (Philippine) government,” Coballes said.
Armed men seized Rodwell, who is married to a Filipina, at his residence in Greenmeadows Subdivision, Barangay Upper Panguil in Ipil town.
The kidnappers, said to be led by renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Barhama Alih, were seen boarding a pump boat with their Australian victim.
Alih reportedly turned over Rodwell to an Abu Sayyaf group led by Furuji Indama in Basilan.
“He is now being kept in Basilan by his Abu Sayyaf captors but we are having difficulty in pinpointing their exact location because they are always moving,” a military source in Basilan said.
Senior Supertintendent Alex Linesis, Basilan police director, said intelligence reports showed that the Australian captive had been held somewhere in Zamboanga Sibugay since Dec. 22.
Earlier reports said the kidnappers contacted Rodwell’s wife last Dec. 20, sent her a memory card which contained four of his pictures, and demanded a P1-million ransom.
A crisis management committee headed by Sibugay Gov. Rommel Jalosjos neither confirmed nor denied the reports. – With Roel Pareño - By Jaime Laude (