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Gunmen abduct 2 sisters working on film about Muslims in south Philippines

Suspected al-Qaida-linked gunmen have abducted two Filipino sisters who traveled to a dangerous mountainous area in the southern Philippines to work on a film about Muslim farmers, police and military officials said Sunday.

Nadjoua and Linda Bansil were taken by about 10 gunmen Saturday in Sulu province's Patikul town where they filmed coffee farmers. At least three companions of the sisters, who were in a van, fled on a motorcycle or were left behind by the gunmen, Patikul police chief Senior Inspector Christopher Gutierrez said.

Police were trying to locate the gunmen and their victims, Gutierrez said.

Marine Col. Jose Cenabre said the gunmen belong to the Abu Sayyaf, a violent group notorious for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and other atrocities, but Gutierrez said police were still checking that.

Abu Sayyaf militants have been holding a number of hostages in the jungles of Sulu, including two European bird watchers and a Jordanian journalist who were kidnapped last year. The militants are active in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province about 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila, where they have survived in their jungle encampments despite years of U.S.-backed Philippine offensives.

Gutierrez said the women, who were guests of a Sulu-based sultan, did not coordinate with police before their trip to the dangerous Patikul hinterlands.