MANILA • A British businessman and his Filipino wife have been abducted in the southern Philippines, where Islamic militants have been known to seize foreigners and missionaries for ransom, the police and the military said yesterday.
Mr Allan Arthur Hyrons, 70, and Ms Welma Paglinawan-Hyrons were taken on Friday night by six unidentified gunmen from a beach resort in the town of Tukuran in Zamboanga del Sur province.
It was not immediately clear who had abducted the couple, but insurgent groups known for their involvement in kidnappings operate in the area.
Major Helen Galvez of the Philippine regional police said that a day before the abduction, two people believed to be involved had checked in at the resort and were apparently waiting for the couple.
"They were seized at gunpoint and dragged across the beach where they were taken on two motorised boats that immediately sped off into the high seas in opposite directions," Maj Galvez said.
One group known for its involvement in such abductions is Abu Sayyaf, or Bearers of the Sword, a militant group with many factions. One of them is led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who has been identified by the United States as the new leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate operating in the southern Philippines.
Sawadjaan took over from Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed during intense gun battles with Philippine troops when Abu Sayyaf fighters sacked the city of Marawi two years ago. His group is believed to have orchestrated a suicide bombing at a Catholic church on Jolo Island in January that left 23 people dead.
After Friday's abduction, the police and the military sent out search teams, and also enlisted the help of members of former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Maj Galvez said.
The group was the largest Muslim insurgent force that originally fought for an independent state in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. But it signed a peace deal with the government in 2014, and its leaders now head an interim government that oversees an autonomous region in the south.
Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the Philippines' most brutal attacks, including kidnappings and beheadings.