Kidnapped German, 3 others released

With the police and army soldiers breathing on their backs, the kidnappers have no choice but to release Thomas Wallraf of Cologne, Germany and his wife, Mae Sharon Jackson in Barangay Balonguis, Pikit town this afternoon.

Also released unharmed by the kidnappers were Consuelo San Juan and Diego Daniel Jr., the van driver.

The kidnappers released them to Ustadz Abdul Mauti of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who in turn released them to the Army and the police.

"This is a great example on what we can do together if we cooperate with each other. The peace process is really working here," Col. Dixon Hermoso, chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said.

Hermoso said the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which maintains a sizable force in Pikit town, also played a hand in the successful rescue of Wallraf and his companions.

Both the MNLF and the MILF have been talking peace with the Philippine government to end the decades-old Moro insurgency war in Mindanao .

"I was not shaken," Wallraf told police and Army officials when he was brought to the Pikit town hall after their release.

He said he was surprised to see that their abductors were not careful with their firearms during their long walk through the rice fields of Pikit.

Wallraf said at one point, one of the kidnappers left his M16 rifle beside him. He said it was tempted to reach for the rifle but did not, thinking about his wife.

"We were even given chicken for lunch," Wallraf said.

The kidnappers moved Wallraf from house to house as they tried to find a way out of the ring of soldiers, policemen and rebels. The abductors even gave Wallraf a native hat made of buri apparently to hide his Caucusian features.

"Bapa Kayon" (not his real name), a resident of barangay Balonguis, said he met the gunmen armed with M16 and M14 rifles with the hostages while walking on a rice paddy.

"I was looking at this tall white man. His features were really Caucusian and I was surprised to see him walking on the rice fields," Kayon said.

As he walked farther from the kidnappers, Kayon said he saw armed men in short pants and military jackets running after the group. Because he is a local resident, he knew these armed men were MILF fighters.

Kayon said the kidnappers are apparently not from the area. He said had they known the area, the kidnappers would have not brought their victims there.

"On that side, it is the MILF who is in control. That side is controlled by the MNLF. These groups do not tolerate any disturbance to our peace," he said.

Insp. Elias Dandan, Pikit town police chief, said Wallraf, his wife and two companions left Davao Wednesday night after renting a brown Nissan van with plate number YDN 826 from Roselyn Timbal of Diversion Road, Maa, Davao City.

Dandan said Wallraf and his wife were looking for nickel bobbits that is supposed to be hidden somewhere in Pikit by the US forces during World War 2.

"Actually this is a scam. We heard many reports of these activities especially around Fort Pikit where the American forces were stationed," he said.

Wallraf's wife Jackson said they were told by a certain "Eddie" that they can find the precious metal in Pikit.

The German and his wife are residents of Manila but frequently visits Davao City in search for the supposed precious metal. They met Eddie in one of their visits in Davao City.

Jackson said they were traveling with "Eddie" when he decided to stop to pick up a companion in Kabacan town around 10 a.m. this morning.

She said they continued on their trip until they reached barangay Bantulawan, Pikit where five armed men flagged down the van.

"I thought it was a checkpoint. It was not. We were instead kidnapped," she said. (Froilan Gallado with reports from Malu Manar, Williamor Magbanua and Walter Balane/MindaNews)