MANILA • Two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from a popular resort island in the southern Philippines, the army said yesterday.
Captain Alberto Caber said the four were taken at gunpoint during a raid late on Monday night on the Oceanview resort on Samal island, near Davao City, the largest city on Mindanao island in the restive southern Philippines.
Military and police officials were surprised by the latest attack, which came as a reminder of volatile security in the south despite recent peace initiatives with Islamist rebels. The Davao region has been relatively peaceful for more than a decade.
Last year, a peace agreement with the largest Muslim rebel group in the south ended 45 years of conflict that had killed about 120,000 people and displaced two million.
"Four people were taken, but we do not know what group was behind the attack," Capt Caber told reporters.
He said there were about 30 foreign tourists at the resort at the time of the raid. "It appeared the foreigners were the targets, they were not taken at random," he said.
Capt Caber said the abducted foreigners were identified as Mr John Ridsdel and Mr Robert Hall from Canada and Mr Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian manager of the resort. The Filipino woman was not identified.
Military sources said the gunmen spoke English and Tagalog, the language spoken widely in the Philippines. "Two Japanese tourists tried to intervene but failed," one of the sources said.
The gunmen fled towards the Mindanao mainland with their captives, the source said.
Three navy ships were sent to search and intercept the gunmen's boat, while ground units were also alerted to locate possible landing sites in south-eastern Mindanao, an army commander said.
Monday's abduction was the first in Davao region, specifically in the resort-island of Samal, since 2001, when Abu Sayyaf bandits tried to enter a popular resort there. Three security men died fighting the attackers in that incident.
The kidnapping and terror group based in Western Mindanao, has been known to kidnap locals and foreigners in southern Philippines for ransom since the 1990s.
"We've requested the resort owner to have the CCTV (close-circuit television) footage on the scene be enhanced to aid us in the investigation," said Senior Superintendent Samuel Gadingan, the Davao del Norte police chief.
REUTERS, THE PHILIPPINE INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK