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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Philippines links Abu Sayyaf to kidnap
Fighters from the Abu Sayyaf rebel group
Abu Sayyaf rebels are believed to be the kidnappers
Suspected Muslim rebels have kidnapped a group of door-to-door salespeople on the Philippine island of Jolo.

The group of three men and five women were working for a cosmetics company when they were abducted in the town of Patikul.

The Philippine military said later that two of the men had been freed.


We have directed the armed forces to take the appropriate action

Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes
Military operations against the rebels are continuing, and correspondents say the workers may have been taken as human shields.

The kidnapping was the first on the island since US troops began working with the Philippine military to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf group.

The Abu Sayyaf group is best known for kidnapping for ransom, though the US and Philippines governments have linked it to the al-Qaeda network.

Frequent kidnappings

The US sent more than 1,000 troops to the southern Philippines to train local security forces for their campaign against the Abu Sayyaf, which last year took dozens of people hostage, including three Americans.

The US troops left the country last month.

The latest kidnapping took place on the island of Jolo, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south-west of Basilan.

The victims, all Filipinos, were travelling in a remote region when suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen stopped their vehicle.

They were made to get out and led away into a forest, the military said.

Two of the men were later released and were now in police custody, southern military commander Lieutenant-General Ernesto Carolina said.

Military assault

Local officials said the group, reported to be door-to-door salespeople, had been advised to avoid the area due to the threat of kidnapping.

Police chief Ahiron Ajirim said Pakitul was a stronghold of Radulan Sahiron, an Abu Sayyaf leader.

Filipino troops on the island of Basilan
The US believes the Abu Sayyaf has links to Osama Bin Laden

The Abu Sayyaf rebels on Jolo are reported to belong to a different faction than those operating on Basilan island, and are believed to have suffered less from recently military offensives.

Defence Secretary Angelo Reyes in Manila said that a hunt was now underway to find the remaining abductees.

"We have directed the armed forces to take the appropriate action," he said.

See also:

31 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
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06 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
01 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
27 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
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