ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, Feb 14, (AFP) - A Sri Lankan peace activist seized by an armed gang in the southern Philippines has been sighted with his kidnappers, a government official said today.
“We have sighted the hostage but we cannot reveal yet (more details) as there is an operation,” said provincial vice-governor Al-Rashid Sakalahul, who heads an anti-kidnap task force in the area.
Omar Jaleel, of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, was still on Basilan island where he was kidnapped by armed teenagers before dawn on Friday, he said.
He said the gang had not been identified.
The Brussels-based Nonviolent Peaceforce, which describes itself as “a neutral non-governmental organisation,” earlier said it did not pay ransom, and urged the kidnappers to release Jaleel “unharmed as quickly as possible”.
Nonviolent Peaceforce says its volunteers work to promote non-violent solutions to conflict situations in Sri Lanka and the Mindanao region of the southern Philippines, wracked by a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency.
More recently, Islamic militants in the region have launched a campaign of bombings and kidnappings targeting Christians and Westerners.
Jaleel is the latest abductee in the region, following a rash of kidnappings including three Red Cross workers by Muslim militants.
Red Cross staffers Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary-Jean Lacaba were abducted on January 15 and are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo island, southwest of Basilan.