MANILA (Reuters) – Gunmen in the Philippines kidnapped three people early Tuesday, including a naturalized American woman and her 14-year-old son, police said.
The gunmen stormed a beach house on Tictabon island, near the southern port city of Zamboanga, and took three holidaymakers, city police chief Edwin de Ocampo told reporters.
The island is in the Philippines’ troubled south where Islamist militants and Muslim separatists are active.
De Ocampo said 14 armed men in two boats arrived around 3 a.m. Tuesday (3 p.m. EDT) and overpowered unarmed guards. They took Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, 50, her son Kevin Eric, and a nephew, Romnick Jackaria, 19.
“We’re still tracking down the gunmen and find out where they took their captives,” de Ocampo said, adding the woman’s husband, a German national, has been notified about the abduction.
The Lunsmanns are from Virginia and were on vacation with some relatives on the island. They were due to return home this week after two weeks in the Philippines, de Ocampo said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. There are a number of Muslim rebel groups operating in the area where the kidnapping took place, de Ocampo said.
The small but violent Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf and the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are both active in the area. Bandits and guns-for-hire are also common.
The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf is holding half a dozen captives, including a Malaysian and an Indian national, on Basilan and Jolo islands.
Last month the United States, United Kingdom and Australia warned their citizens against traveling to restive areas in the southern Philippines, particularly resorts and dive sites in Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi-tawi areas, due to threats of abduction and bomb attacks.
(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by John Mair and Daniel Magnowski)
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