MANILA, Philippines – About 14 heavily armed men believed to be Abu Sayyaf militants abducted two US tourists, a 50-year-old woman and her son, while they were visiting their relatives on an island “barangay” (village) off Zamboanga City in Mindanao, police and the military reported on Tuesday.
Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo, the Zamboanga City police chief, identified the victims as Gesta Yeatts Lunsmann and her son Kevin, 14, who were abducted Monday afternoon on Tictabon Island east of the city.
De Ocampo said Lunsmann, a “balikbayan” (visiting Filipino), and her son arrived in June to visit their relatives on the island when they were abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists.
Lunsmann, he revealed, was born in Tictabon but was adopted by a US couple and then married her husband of German origin as they established their residence in Virginia to raise their family.
According to De Ocampo, Lunsmann and her son arrived more than three weeks ago to visit her biological family when they were abducted.
Lunsmann’s nephew, identified as Romnick Jakaria, 19, was also missing but there were conflicting reports regarding his disappearance.
A reliable police source, who requested anonymity said they are looking into the possibility that Jakaria who arrived from the island province of Basilan shortly before the abduction on Monday was an alleged accomplice of the Abu Sayyaf.
But another report said Jakaria was not involved with the militants and was also a kidnap victim.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, the regional military spokesman, said the suspected Abu Sayyaf abductors were led by a “Commander Pula (Red),” who fled with their hostages on board two pump boats toward Basilan, a known hotbed of the militants.
So far, Cabangbang said Lunsmann’s relatives have yet to receive word from the abductors or whether they are demanding ransom for their release.
The Abu Sayyaf gained notoriety through a series of kidnap-for-ransom cases since 2001, highlighted by the beheading of their Filipino and foreign hostages. which resulted in its inclusion in the list of “foreign-based terror groups” by the US and Europe.