ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - A former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) integrated into the Army was abducted Thursday by the Abu Sayyaf in a village in Sulu, according to military official.
The abduction came while troops have yet to account at least 27 captives, including 20 foreigners and seven locals.
The government forces were also locating the remains of Filipino sailor Noel Besconde who was beheaded on Maundy Thursday.
The military said Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji, assigned with the 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB) under the joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS), was seized by seven gunmen about 9:30 a.m along the road heading towards Barangay Iagasan, Patikul town.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the JTFS, said Siraji, a Tausug and native of Sulu, was integrated as part of the MNLF’s peace deal with the government.
He said troops from the 32nd IB immediately launched pursuit operation where the gunmen fled with their captive soldier.
All operating troops were alerted and conducted pursuit and blocking operations within the immediate vicinity, Sobejana said.
The military official said the abduction of the soldier will not prevent and force them to back out from the current operation.
“This will further motivate us to continue our relentless and sustained focus military operations against the ASG and the rescue of all kidnap victims," Sobejana said.
Patikul town, an area known as stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, has been one of the main target areas of the military offensives for three months now.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) denounced the abduction, saying that even a native of Sulu was not spared by the Abu Sayyaf group.
"It is frustrating that a Tausug soldier who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come in his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits. Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe," Galvez said in a statement.
Galvez called on all the natives of Sulu to rally behind the military in waging the fight against the terrorists group.
“I firmly believe that as long as we are together on this, we will be able to disallow these bandits to continue creating havoc and fear to everyone," added Galvez.
Galvez also vowed to continue the hunt against the perpetrators of Siraji and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf.
“We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family," Galvez said.