- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

JOLO, Philippines (Agence France-Presse) Eight Filipinos have been abducted by suspected Muslim guerrillas of the Abu Sayyaf group under pressure from intense military operations in the southern Philippines, police said today.
Five women and three men, working as representatives for pharmaceutical firms, were seized by Muslim armed men in the town of Patikul on Jolo island yesterday, the provincial Police Chief Ahiron Ajirim said.
He said Patikul was a stronghold of a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group leader, Radulan Sahiron.
Patikul town Vice Mayor Ismon Suhuri believed the abduction was staged by the one-armed Sahiron's group but could not give further details.
The kidnapping took place as Philippine troops shelled suspected lairs of the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul as part of a larger offensive to rid the troubled southern Philippines of the kidnapping problem.
The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnapping Christians and foreigners, was the target of a U.S.-Philippine operation that ended recently in another southern island, Basilan.
The U.S. and Philippine governments have linked the group to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.
The Abu Sayyaf lost its main hostages when Philippine troops mounted a rescue attempt June 7 that recovered American hostage Gracia Burnham but resulted in the deaths of her husband, Martin, and captive Filipina Ediborah Yap.
It was widely feared that the Abu Sayyaf would kidnap more hostages to use as shields to ward off military operations, which have continued since the departure of the U.S. troops.
Police Chief Ajirim said that outsiders had been cautioned against going to Patikul, but that the eight pharmaceutical representatives insisted on proceeding there.
Sources said the eight were aboard a minibus when two men boarded and forced it to stop outside a mosque and abducted them.
Another small group of former Muslim separatists who have turned to banditry is believed to be holding three kidnapped Indonesian sailors in Jolo.
The Indonesians were seized from a Singaporean coal barge off the coast of Basilan island June 17.

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