AFP chief mum on whether Sulu-based group is behind Samal Island kidnapping

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Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri attended a more than four-hour briefing at the Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters in Davao City, which was attended by top military officials in the region. (File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri refused to comment when asked by reporters on Friday (September 25) if a new kidnap for ransom group based in Sulu was behind the kidnapping of the three foreigners and a Filipina at a resort on Samal Island last Monday evening (September 21).

The question was raised after reports of an intelligence information claiming that the kidnappers and their victims arrived onboard a white speedboat in Barangay Kaunayan in Patikul, Sulu at around 12:30 p.m. last Tuesday (September 22)— about 13 hours after the abduction at Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort on Samal Island.

Related: Kidnappers, victims still within Eastern Mindanao - military

“Chini-check pa natin kung ano ba talagang grupo. Kasama yan sa lahat ng kino-collate at tinitignan natin. Alam niyo naman first time nangyari yan dito,” Irriberi said.

The intelligence report claimed that a group from the village of Tanum in Patikul, Sulu — known as a lair of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) — was behind the kidnapping of Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marithes Flor.

Allegedly, the same intelligence report mentioned that there was an impending kidnapping days before it was perpetrated.

This spurred questions on whether the incident was a failure on the part of the authorities to take prompt action, but Iriberri refused to confirm or deny the information.

Earlier, Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad was quoted saying that a lawless group from Sulu could have possibly planned and masterminded the abduction. But Baladad was quick to clarify that the group is separate from the ASG.

Irriberi was careful in divulging any information that they have so far.

The AFP chief also refused to give any details of their operation saying that it is essential to the success of the rescue mission led by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Pakiusap nga namin we should not even talk about anything operational, intelligence, because it could have an impact adversely... So I hope you understand that we cannot give you anything about operational matters,” said Irriberi.

Irriberri, however, assured the public that the military and the police are doing their best to rescue the kidnapped victims.

“We have very good commanders here, he have competent commanders,” he said.

“So lahat ina-assess, bina-validate, ini-evaluate, lahat ng information na pumapasok. We are taking everything based on the information that we receive.”

Iriberri attended a more than four-hour briefing at the EastMinCom headquarters in Davao City, which was attended by top military officials in the region.

CNN Philippines' string correspondent Ben O. Tesiorna contributed to this report.