ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – An Australian national seized in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay last December had been kept by Abu Sayyaf militants in their training camp in the hinterlands of Sumisip town in Basilan a few weeks before it was overrun by government troops, the military said over the weekend.
The Abu Sayyaf used the camp in remote Barangay Bai to hide their kidnap victims, said Col. Ricardo Visaya, commanding officer of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade based in Isabela City, Basilan.
Visaya said the background of the picture sent by the kidnappers of Warren Richard Rodwell to his family as proof of life resembled the Abu Sayyaf camp.
Rodwell, 52, who is married to Filipino Mariflor Gutang, was snatched by seven armed men last Dec. 5 from his home in Barangay Pang in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. His kidnappers initially brought him to Basilan, the military said.
The kidnappers sent video clips and pictures of Rodwell last January where he appealed for his release and relayed the $2-million ransom demand. The amount was reportedly later reduced to $23,000.
Visaya could not say how the Abu Sayyaf might have kept Rodwell in the Sumisip camp before it was overrun by Army Scout Rangers last month.
Visaya said the Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to have hatched their terrorist attacks in that training camp which is strategically located, as it is accessible from adjoining towns.
“The capture of the camp has weakened any of their plots because they are on the run. Our troops continue to track them and given the chance, wipe them out,” Visaya said. - By Roel Pareño