MANILA, Philippines – Philippine security forces were searching Monday for a Manila television reporter and two cameramen believed to have been abducted by Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants while pursuing a story.
ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Drilon and her two crewmen were intercepted Sunday in volatile Jolo island's Maimbung township by armed men under Albader Parad, an Abu Sayyaf leader in the area, the regional police chief said.
Police Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said the reporter and cameramen arrived Saturday at the invitation of Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo "to cover a special event."
On Sunday morning Dinampo picked them up from a university hostel, and armed men identified as being under Parad's command intercepted them as their vehicle passed through Kulasi village, Goltiao said.
He said he ordered town police chiefs to determine Drilon's whereabouts.
The Maimbung police chief reported sightings in the Kulasi area of Parad and of people with a video camera inside a vehicle.
"We convened the provincial crisis management committee to send feelers to negotiate with the abductors, but the abductors have not yet said anything," Goltiao said by telephone.
He said he was not aware of any ransom demand and he was trying to reach ABS-CBN in Manila for more details.
ABS-CBN executives have refused to comment, saying the network would issue a statement early Tuesday.
Abu Sayyaf is estimated to have 380 fighters, down from more than 1,000 eight years ago. It has been weakened by U.S.-backed military offensives that have led to the killing and capture of many of its leaders and members.
But police said the militants have continued to plot attacks, including against U.S. soldiers who have been providing counterterrorism training to Filipino troops in Jolo and nearby provinces.
Washington has blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings, such as the 2001 abduction from a resort island of 21 people, including three Americans.
Philippine military and police officials say the group — which seeks a separate state for the country's Muslim minority — has received training and funds from Al Qaeda militants in the past.