ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Unidentified gunmen have snatched an official of the state-run Mindanao State University (MSU) in the southern Philippines and reportedly brought the victim to the camp of a rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) field commander.
Police said Hipolito Minoza, budget officer of the MSU’s main campus in Marawi City, was seized by gunmen on Thursday afternoon on a highway near the village of Bubong in Saguiran town in Lanao del Sur province. Minoza was said to be on his way to Iligan City from Marawi City when seized.
"Minoza was on a vehicle when gunmen stopped him on the highway," Chief Superintendent Bensali Jabarani, the regional police chief, told GMANews.TV.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, but Jabarani has ordered police forces to track down the assailants in the province. "We still don't know who were behind this and the motive of the kidnapping," he said.
But the military was quick to blame the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, claiming that one of its leaders Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo, was behind the kidnapping. The rebel leader is being hunted by security forces for leading deadly attacks in August in Mindanao.
A report by the PNP Operations Center said Minoza was brought to the lair of Commander Bravo at the boundary of Piagapo, Lanao del Sur and Poona Piagapo, Lanao del Norte.
Authorities have put up a P10-million bounty for the capture of Commander Bravo, whose forces were blamed for the attacks in the provinces of Lanao and Sarangani.
The MILF strongly denied the military allegation. "Why blame us for everything? This is absurd and the MILF has nothing to do with the kidnapping, we are not kidnappers, but revolutionaries," said Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman.
The MILF is the country's largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.
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