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Sri Lankan peace worker taken hostage in Basilan.

Byline: Jalil suspected to be injured after abductors fire warning shots

Zamboanga City/Manila: Nine armed men abducted a 36-year old Sri Lankan peace worker in war-torn southern Basilan Island in a pre-dawn attack on Friday, officials said.

Omar Jalil was roused from his sleep by nine gunmen, who forcibly entered his home in Maloong village in Lamitan City at 2:25am, said Basilan police director Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar.

Jalil is with Nonviolent Peaceforce, a nonpartisan group that has been sending observers to the four-decade-old separatist struggle in the southern Philippines.

The gunmen fired warning shots when Jalil refused to follow their orders, said Macapantar, adding that Jalil's caretaker, identified as Gil de los Reyes, gave details of the "horrifying and violent abduction".

"The caretaker was afraid that Jalil was shot in his arm. The caretaker fled when the suspects indiscriminately opened fire, to terrorise other people who might have been in the house. The caretaker thought he would be kidnapped, so he ran away as fast as he could," Macapantar said.

"He is now assisting authorities in looking for Jalil," Macapantar added.

Jalil's abduction raised to 10 the total number of hostages kept in southern Philippines' Basilan, Jolo, and Zamboanga, known areas of the Abu Sayyaf, a local terror group linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of the Al Qaida terror network.

Fourteen were kidnapped from December 8 to February 4, but four of them were freed or have managed to escape as of February 11.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched operations in Basilan to "locate and save Jalil," said Macapantar.

Marines began scouring the hinterlands and other troops started searching through coastal areas in Basilan. Civilian Volunteer Organisations joined the authorities in the search, said Macapantar.

Superintendent Danilo Bacas, operations chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the security forces were trying to prevent Jalil's kidnappers from leaving Basilan.

Three Red Cross workers including two Europeans are still held by their kidnappers in Jolo.

- With inputs from Barbara Mae Dacnay, Bureau Chief

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 14, 2009
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