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Nation

Kidnappers eye turnover of 2 US citizens, relative to 'bigger' gang

- Roel Pareño -

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The kidnappers of two US nationals and their Filipino relative plan to turn over their hostages to a bigger kidnap-for-ransom gang, according to reports reaching officials here.

The kidnap gangs being considered, including the Abu Sayyaf group, however, have not taken custody of Americans Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 42, her son Kevin Eric, 14, and Filipino nephew Romnick Jakaria, 19, for fear of their security, according to a security official who declined to be named as he is not authorized to make public statement.

The official said the kidnappers are having a hard time turning over their captives to another group because no local official or relatives of the victims have come forward to negotiate with them.

The kidnappers contacted the husband of Luns­mann in Virginia, USA almost two weeks ago and issued a ransom demand. But there was no other contact made by the kidnappers after that.

The local Crisis Management Committee (CMC) has been silent for the past several days but denied imposing a news blackout.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, chairman of the CMC, assured in a statement that Task Force Lunsmann is quietly working and gathering all intelligence information needed to resolve the kidnapping case.

The Lunsmanns were on the last day of their vacation when they were abducted in Tigtabon Island off the coast of this city last July 12.

Police and military forces have been deployed in the area where the hostages are believed held, the official said. But he ruled out police and military option at this time, saying there has been no “eyeball” contact yet with the kidnap victims.

“And if ever there is sighting or eyeball contact on the victims, the victims’ family will have to make the decision because the Philippine security forces avoid a similar case of the Burnham,” the official said.

The source was referring to American missionary Martin and Gracia Burnhams, who were among the 20 Dos Palmas tourists taken by the Abu Sayyaf in May 2001. Martin was killed while Gracia was wounded and rescued after a year of the hostage crisis when troops attempted the bloody rescue operation in a coastal town of Zamboanga del Norte.

ABU SAYYAF

AMERICANS GERFA YEATTS LUNSMANN

BURNHAM

CRISIS MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

DOS PALMAS

KEVIN ERIC

MARTIN AND GRACIA BURNHAMS

MAYOR CELSO LOBREGAT

ROMNICK JAKARIA

TASK FORCE LUNSMANN

TIGTABON ISLAND

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