RESCUE operations went full-blast after peaceful efforts to seek the safe release of two Chinese nationals from the hands of kidnappers in Basilan proved futile.

The Crisis Management Committee (CMC) has given the police and military the go signal to launch the operations.

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Still being held captive by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits are Zi Shun Lu, alias Oscar Lu, 51; and Bo Shung Tan, alias Michael Tan, 27, both from Guangzhou, China.

About 30 gunmen who barged into a plywood firm in the evening of November 10 in the village of Marketsite, Maluso, Basilan, kidnapped Lu and Tan, together with Marques Singson, 36.

The kidnappers beheaded Singson, a resident of Maligue village, Isabela City.

Singson's head was recovered in the evening of December 10 at a public plaza in downtown Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

However, Basilan Vice Governor Alrasheed Sakkalahul, who chairs the CMC, said peaceful efforts continue for the release of the hostages despite launching of the rescue operations.

The vice governor added that the safety of the hostages is still of paramount concern of the troops tracking down the whereabouts of the captives and the kidnappers.

The CMC learned that the kidnappers are now negotiating directly with the families of the hostages as per information from George Tan, the owner of the plywood firm.

Latest reports said the two hostages were sighted in the boundaries of Sumisip and Maluso towns. (Bong Garcia)