MANILA, Philippines – Philippine troops rescued a Filipino businessman of Swiss descent Wednesday as suspected Muslim guerrillas who abducted him two months ago were moving him to a coastal village in the country’s south, officials said.
Several guerrillas fled after they landed onshore in Labuan township in the outskirts of Zamboanga city with their ailing captive, Charlie Reith, and saw government forces approaching before dawn, regional military commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino said.
“He was rescued while his kidnappers were trying to move him to a new place,” Dolorfino told The Associated Press.
Reith was taken to a military camp, where he was given porridge and checked by doctors. Navy men and army troops tried to track down his captors, some of whom escaped onboard two motor boats, Rear Adm. Alex Pama said.
Gunmen seized Reith, 72, from a beach resort in Zamboanga on April 4 and whisked him off onboard three outrigger boats. They also tried to kidnap his German friend, Karl Reichling, but he resisted and managed to get away.
Reith, who has diabetes, was born in Zamboanga city to a Filipino mother and a Swiss father, Dolorfino said.
Authorities initially suspected al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants were behind the abduction. Pama, however, said the kidnappers appeared to have been gunmen allied with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Abu Sayyaf militants have been notorious for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and deadly bombings in Zamboanga and the nearby islands of Basilan and Jolo. The larger Moro rebel front has been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the south, homeland of minority Muslims, for decades.
(Read more on AP and Yahoo! Philippines News)