ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Suspected members of a kidnap-for-ransom group released Monday an Arab missionary they abducted last January 29 in Marawi City.
The victim, Najib Al-Udayni, 30, was released by his kidnappers around 3 a.m. Monday in the boundary of Talakag, Bukidnon, and Tagoloan, Lanao del Sur.
Al-Udayni is a Yemeni missionary and a member of “Markazoss Habab Al Muslim Filfilibbin Inc. (Muslim Youth Center in the Philippines),” a United Arab Emirates-based Muslim religious organization that has been serving Lanao del Sur for more than 31 years.
Brigadier General Rey Ardo, chief of the Army's 103rd Infantry Brigade, said Al-Udayni’s safe release Monday was a result of search and rescue operations conducted by police and military, along with a series of negotiations spearheaded by Lanao del Sur first district Representative Faisah Dumarpa.
Dumarpa said the kidnappers contacted her following a request over a radio station that Al-Udayni will be released without any harm in due time.
“I appealed through the radio [for Al-Udayni’s release] because I know his abductors have a heart,” Dumarpa said.
She said she urged the kidnappers to release the victims as Al-Udayni was instrumental in charitable works in the province, like mosques construction and aiding educational institutions. She added that the victim was in Lanao del Sur for reasons of goodwill and did not deserve to be treated unjustly by his captors.
Following his release, Al-Udayni was brought to Cagayan de Oro for routine physical check-up.
He was presented to the media Monday during a press conference at Pryce Plaza in Cagayan de Oro City.
He expressed gratitude to the police, military, and political leaders who helped facilitate his safe release. He will be handed over to the UAE embassy in Manila for proper disposition.
The victim was kidnapped last January 29 while traveling together with two other Yemenis and a Filipino driver in Marawi City to inspect and audit some humanitarian projects in the province.
Al-Udayni was forcibly taken by his abductors and was kept at Kapai, Lanao del Sur for ransom. His companions managed to escape unharmed during the incident.
Ardo said the two Yemenis immediately left Marawi City for fear that they might be the next victim, adding the kidnappers were disguised as policemen in uniform, the reason they were able to carry out their nefarious act.
“I am appealing to the people of Lanao del Sur to renounce condoning such acts. These crooked ways will never stop unless the people will make a stand. This is everybody’s concern,” Ardo said.
He believed the kidnappers are members of a local bandit group that is only after ransom.
Ardo, however, emphasized that no ransom was paid for Al-Udayni’s release as Dumarpa managed to convince the suspects to peacefully release the victim.
The police and military are now preparing the filing of appropriate charges against the suspects. (Bong Garcia/VR/ALR/Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sunnex)