Philippine forces on Thursday climbed to the ground and searched the sea for a day after a former Italian Catholic missionary was abducted by gunmen in the south.
At least six people, some with guns, dragged Rolando del Torcio out of his pizza restaurant in a van and then into two motorboats, fleeing from the town of Dipolog in the province of Zamboanga del Norde on Wednesday under cover of darkness, city police chief Rani Hachuela said. .
Del Torcio’s abduction last month resulted in the abduction of two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian and a Filipina woman, from a high-quality marina on the island of Chamal in the province of Davao del Norde in Devada. No trace of the four.
These kidnappings are a recent reminder of long-standing security problems, which have abundant resources and promises, but have been plagued by poverty, insurgency and outlaws.
Hachuwela said security cameras had recorded pictures of some of the gunmen and that it could help authorities identify them.
Air force helicopters, naval patrol boats and army and police forces were deployed Thursday to search suspicious locations in coastal areas and southern Zulu province, where Abu Sayyaf militants linked to al-Qaeda are holding hostages for rescue in jungle camps.
But police said they did not know who was behind the latest kidnappings.
Del Torcio was a farmer who became a missionary at the Pontifical Institute for Overseas Affairs, a Catholic group founded in Italy with about 500 members in 17 countries. Father Gianni Ree said he helped develop the skills of farmers and create cooperative organizations in poor communities.
“He was a very approachable person,” Del Torcio said, leaving the Catholic embassy many years ago, but he remained in the region despite the abduction of three Catholic missionaries from the organization and the killing of two in the last three decades. .
Ree, who heads the company in the Philippines, said 10 other Italian missionaries are still working in the southern Philippines.