A SUSPECTED leader of a kidnap-for-ransom group was killed in a clash with government forces in Zamboanga City, a top police official said Monday.

Chief Superintendent Angelo Sunglao, Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (Dipo)-west, said the clash happened around 7:30 a.m. Sunday in Sacol Island, 54 kilometers east of this city.

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Sunglao identified the slain kidnap gang leader as Jun Akilan of the Pingli Akilan group, who was using Sacol Island as staging point for kidnapping and other atrocities.

The police official said the Akilan group has ties with the kidnappers based in the nearby province of Basilan.

The police learned that the group was behind the kidnapping of Inocente Bautista, 58, the manager of the Western Mindanao Development Corporation (Wesmidco).

Wesmidco is the distributor of Mead Johnson and Zafi products in Zamboanga Peninsula and nearby provinces.

Bautista was kidnapped on May 27, 2008 and was freed 13 days after.

The police are still looking into the possible involvement of the Akilan group to the kidnapping of three public school teachers and a retired soldier in Zamboanga City.

The three teachers were kidnapped on January 23, 2009 while the retired soldier was seized last February 6.

The three teachers were freed in Basilan province on May 25, 2009 while the soldier was freed in Zamboanga Sibugay province after two weeks in captivity.

Sunglao said the search for the remaining members of the Akilan group continues. (Bong Garcia)