By Mario J. Mallari
The Daily tribune, Thursday, June 17, 2010
Security forces said they rescued an elderly
Swiss national but a Filipino citizen who was
kidnapped over two months ago by suspected
Islamist militants in a lawless part of the
Tribune sources yesterday said that his
kidnappers had already freed him, after a
“negotiated” ransom demand was met. This was,
however, denied by the police-military
Carl Rieth, 72, was abandoned in a coastal
village outside the southern port city of
Zamboanga by his captors, who fled after
seeing police and army troops who rushed
to the area following a tip from an inform-ant,
“He was rescued before dawn at 3 a.m. yesterday,
” regional military chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin
Dolorfino told AFP. “Follow up operations
(against the kidnappers) are ongoing.”
Rear Adm. Alexander Pama, commander of the
military’s Task Force Trillium, said Rieth was
safely rescued by elements of the Task Force
Charlie along the shoreline of Barangay Labuan
in Zamboanga City.
Pama added that Rieth was being moved by his
captors when the government forces caught up
with the group. “They (Reith captors) were
cornered and they left him,” Pama said.
There was no firefight during the rescue
“He was being moved, it looked like he would
be transferred,” added Pama.
The military official said Rieth, whom he
described as having lost weight, was
subsequently turned over to his family.
“I have talked to him, I have seen him and
confirmed that he has been rescued. He lost
a bit weight but he is in very good spirits.
He is very happy that he has been rescued,”
Rieth was snatched by more or less 30 armed men,
wearing camouflage uniforms, from his beach
resort in Barangay Patalon, Zamboanga City last
April 4 while he was having a picnic with his
family and friends.
Government authorities later tagged Abu Sayyaf
leader Khair Mundos and MILF commander Malista
Malaca as the group behind the kidnapping.
For his part, Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard
Arevalo welcomed the safe rescue of the Filipino-
“The successful rescue that caught the abductors
by surprise is the fruit of an extensive
intelligence build-up by the police and the
Philippine Navy operatives,” said Arevalo, adding
“although follow up operations are ongoing, this
is a welcome development as the personnel involved
here can augment other forces pursuing the abductors
of other kidnap victims who were murdered in Basilan.”
Rieth, who friends said suffered from pneumonia
and a weak heart, was immediately rushed to a
private hospital, according to Dolorfino.
His freedom came just weeks after his kidnappers
released a video in which the frail-looking
hostage pleaded to be freed.
In the video Rieth said his unidentified captors
had demanded at least P 20 million in exchange for
his freedom, according to relatives and friends
who saw the footage.
Rieth had a Swiss father and Filipina mother and
is well-respected within the local business
community. He is a Filipino citizen and has no
Swiss citizenship, friends said.
No one claimed responsibility for his abduction,
although Dolorfino said the al Qaeda-linked Abu
Sayyaf group was suspected of being behind the crime.
“That’s our initial information but it is still being
verified,” Dolorfino said.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of Islamic militants
on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist
organizations that is well known for staging
kidnappings for ransom in the southern Philippines.
The group is also blamed for the Philippines’ worst
terrorist attacks, including the 2004 bombing of a
passenger ferry that killed over 100 people in
However a complex array of other Muslim armed groups
and pirates operate in the southern Philippines and
have for years also snatched locals as well as
foreigners to secure often huge ransom rewards.
Elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a
Muslim rebel group that has been waging a separatist
insurgency in the southern Mindanao region since the
1970s, have also been involved in kidnappings.
Ransoms are often paid to secure the hostages’
freedom, even though authorities typically deny
money is handed over.
In Rieth’s case, both the military and police denied
any ransom changed hands.
“No,” Dolorfino said when asked about a ransom
payment being paid.
Local police chief Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo told
reporters in Zamboanga that at least one of the gunmen
who seized Rieth was believed to be also involved in
the kidnapping of an Irish missionary last year.
The missionary, Michael Sinnott, was freed in November
after more than a month in captivity in the hands of
Muslim bandits who had demanded a $2 million ransom.
The Irish government, Sinnott’s superiors and local
authorities said no ransom was paid in that case.
The Abu Sayyaf last year also kidnapped an Italian,
a Swiss national and a Filipina working for the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
They were subsequently freed allegedly after ransoms
were paid, a claim that the ICRC and governments
In one of their most notorious acts, the Abu Sayyaf
beheaded one of three American hostages they seized
from a resort on Palawan island in 2001. One of the
other hostages was killed during a rescue attempt
over a year later.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director
General Jesus Verzosa also yesterday confirmed that
combined police and military forces were able to rescue Rieth.
Police intelligence gatherings claimed that Rieth and
his kidnappers just came from Sibuco in Zamboanga del
Norte and were about to transfer him to another place
when chanced upon by combined police and military forces.
Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, head of the crisis
management committee, said Rieth was in good condition
but lost weight. He also grew a beard.
Lobregat added that the wound on Rieth’s arm, which was
shown on the video sent by the kidnappers, has healed.
Rieth had been brought to the regional military
headquarters at Camp General Navarro in Zamboanga
City for medical treatment and debriefing.