ABU BANDITS FREE 2 FEMALE COPS

Bandera (Mindanao) - - FRONT PAGE -

MEMBERS of the Abu Sayyaf Group have released two policewomen who they abducted in Sulu last month, National Police chief Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Wednesday.

"This noon, ang sabi ng regional [police] director na-release na, at nasa mga tauhan na ni Gov. Sakur Tan 'yung dalawang babae and on

their way now dun sa bahay ng governor, at ire-release kay provincial director doon," Albayalde told reporters.

Albayalde was referring to PO3 Benierose Alvarez and PO1 Dinah Gumahad, who were abducted along with two male companions in Patikul town last April 29.

Alvarez and Gumahad's companions were released and rescued separately earlier this month.

It can be recalled that Albayalde confirmed that the kidnappers had sought P5 million for the policewomen's release.

Details of the release were not immediately made available and even Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military's Joint Task Force Sulu which has been conducting rescue operations, said he had "no direct information" about it.

Bandera tried to get details from Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, ARMM regional police director, but he did not answer inquiries made via text message.

Albayalde expressed belief that negotiations aided by the local government and "pressure" from the military operations paved the way for the release.

Governor Tan's men picked up the policewomen from an undisclosed "drop point" and brought them to his residence, the PNP chief said.

"Most probably, yes, sa tingin ko, dahil nga parating na 'yung Ramadan kaya siguro ni-release 'yung ating mga pulis dun," he added.

Albayalde said they are now looking at members of the "Ajang-ajang" group in Sulu as suspects, though this has yet to be confirmed in the victims' debriefing.

"Ajang-ajang" is a sub-group of the Abu Sayyaf involved in kidnappings and small-scale attacks on government forces in Sulu's urban areas, according to information from the military.

Amid news of Alvarez and Gumahad's release, Sobejana said rescue operations for other kidnap victims in Sulu will continue.

"Tuloy-tuloy pa rin. May remaining kidnap victims pa na kailangang i-rescue... We are currently reassessing the situation on the ground and make some adjustments on our plan if necessary," Sobejana told Bandera. — John Roson

INQUIRER

MUSLIMS pray at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila on Wednesday as Muslims all over the world anticipate the holy celebration of Ramadan.

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