Updated 09:42 AM PHT Fri, April 21, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — A former Muslim rebel fighter-turned soldier was kidnapped Thursday by suspected bandits, the military said.
Staff Sergeant Anni Siraji was abducted by seven people, allegedly from the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command said in a statement.
Siraji was a former fighter with the Moro National Liberation Front who joined the military's 32nd Infantry Battalion (IB) under the Joint Task Force Sulu.
"It is frustrating that a Tausug soldier who wants a peaceful community and is working for it really hard so that an influx of progress will come in his home province, will have to be a victim of the bandits." Western Mindanao Command Chief Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez Jr. Said. The Tausug are an ethnic group in the povince of Sulu.
"Obviously, the Abu Sayyaf can victimize anyone, even someone from their own tribe," he added.
"For now, we will continue to hunt the perpetrators and the rest of the Abu Sayyaf. We will not stop until we get our soldier back to his family," Galvez said.
Siraji was headed to Barangay Igasan in Patikul, Sulu when he was kidnapped, the statement said.
The military sent one platoon to pursue him and his adbuctors, it added.
"We are saddened by this recent incident and we are right now exhausting all means to go after our soldier," said Joint Task Force Sulu Commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana Jr.
Joint Task Force Sulu is a special military unit comprised of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force assigned to pursue and subdue lawless groups in the island province, which is a hotbed for Abu Sayyaf.
Patikul is considered a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf and is one of the main target areas of the military's offensive against the bandits.
Galvez urged the people to resist bandits terrorizing the area.
"We are calling on all the people of Sulu to join us in this fight. I firmly believe that as long as we are together on this, we will be able to disallow these bandits to continue creating havoc and fear to everyone," he said.
(Story updated 9:15 am. of April 21 for style revisions.)