TABIAWAN, Basilan Province ,Philippines – The kidnappers of two European birdwatchers have demanded the pullout of military units in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in exchange for their release.
Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said the demand was contained in an email sent to the local birdwatching organization of Dutch man Elwold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerre.
Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operation for Western Mindanao, confirmed that the email was sent last Feb. 7 using the account of Ivan Sarenas, the Filipino guide, who was seized together with the Europeans, but escaped. A certain Mustapha Mualam, who claimed to represent the kidnappers, sent the email.
“Informed the Philippine government to full (sic) back the military operation to there (sic) respective camp within Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi,” the email, which Khu showed to reporters states.
Khu said still they are verifying the veracity of the email, adding that the sender could be a prankster.
“I think somebody wants to confuse the situation, especially those trying to rescue the kidnap victims,”he said.
Khu, said a man who did not identify himself, earlier contacted a television network in Manila last Feb. 2 claiming they have the victims and made the same demands in exchange for the release of the two kidnap victims.
However, the man failed to provide any evidence when the television network asked for a proof of life.
Khu said they already have a list of the possible suspects in the kidnapping.
Khu said Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali have sent an emissary to negotiate for the safe release of the victims once the group holding them have been identified. - By Roel Pareño