JOLO (AFP) — Police and military were scouring the strife-torn southern Philippine island of Jolo Tuesday for a prominent television journalist and her crew kidnapped by Muslim extremists.
Award-winning journalist for local broadcaster ABS-CBN Ces Drilon, her two-man crew and a Muslim academic were kidnapped on Sunday by members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, police said.
They said Drilon went to Jolo on Saturday to interview Abu Sayyaf leaders but refused any police or military security.
No ransom demand has been made public, but unconfirmed reports say the kidnappers are asking for between 227,000 and 454,000 dollars for their safe release.
ABS-CBN said in a statement Tuesday that Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama were "missing."
"All efforts are under way to find them and bring them home. Until we learn more details, ABS-CBN News requests other media to report on this matter with utmost consideration for the safety of our news team," the ABS-CBN statement added.
The fourth member of the team was Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo.
A media blackout was imposed for the first 24 hours of the abduction to give negotiators time to make contact with the kidnappers.
The regional director of police for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, chief superintendent Joel Goltiao, said Tuesday Drilon and her crew were kidnapped on Sunday by armed men loyal to local Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad near the town of Maimbung.
Drilon is the third local journalist to be kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf since 2000.
Although numbering just a few hundred, the group has been responsible for some of the country's worst terrorist attacks.
Over the past 18 months, its leadership has been weakened by a massive offensive by the Philippine military aided by US-Special Forces advisers.
Most of the group's leaders have either been killed or captured.
The group was behind the bombing of a ferry in Manila bay in 2004 in which more than 100 people were killed.
It has also been behind a series of high-profile kidnappings and beheadings.
Goltiao would not say if any ransom had been demanded, but Julasirim Kasim, Sulu's provincial police chief, said that as far as he knew no demand had yet been made.
He said the Sulu governor Sakur Tan had convened a crisis management committee to coordinate efforts to free the hostages.
"Governor Sakur Tan is very worried over the safety of the victims and we are doing everything to locate them," Kasim said.
Presidential palace spokesman Ignacio Bunye expressed concern for Drilon and her crew but also appealed for "caution and restraint in media reportage so as not to unduly hamper efforts to rescue them."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »