MANILA, Philippines – Unidentified gunmen have abducted two Canadians, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipino woman from a southern Philippine island, the military and police said Tuesday.
Police have identified the Canadians as John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and the Norwegian as Kjartan Sekkingstad. The unidentified Filipino woman is the wife of one of the Canadians, said regional military spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber.
The gunmen attempted to seize an American and his Japanese companion on one of the yachts docked at the marina, but the couple resisted and escaped by jumping off the boat. The two suffered minor injuries as they struggled to break free from the kidnappers, police said.
At least 11 men armed with pistols arrived on a motorboat and entered the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort before midnight Monday on Samal Island off Davao City, military officials said, citing a security video that captured part of the kidnapping.
WATCH: A man with ties to Calgary is at the centre of a developing kidnapping situation in the Philippines. Jill Croteau has the details on the efforts to rescue John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.
Government forces later heard of the abductions and launched a search.
“Unfortunately, the lead time that the abductors had and the darkness of night were able to cover the retreat of the abductors,” military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Manila.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade confirmed to Global News they are aware of the kidnapping reports.
“The Government of Canada is aware of reports that Canadian citizens were kidnapped in the Philippines,” said a spokesperson in an email late Monday.
“Canada is pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information.”
Government forces on planes and helicopters were scouring the waters and coastal areas in the Davao Gulf, according to Padilla and the police.
Regional military spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber said earlier that two Japanese tried to intervene in the abductions but it was unclear whether they were actually the American and the Japanese woman on the yacht.
No group has claimed responsibility. Muslim and communist rebels, al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants and criminal syndicates have been active for years in the restive southern region due to weak law enforcement in rural areas despite years of on-and-off government crackdowns.
A spokesperson for TVI Pacific, a Calgary-based resource company, told Global News that they received confirmation that Ridsdel, a former senior VP and Chief Operating Officer of TVI, is involved in the abduction. Ridsdel is semi-retired, but serves as a consultant with the company. The spokesperson said “intense rescue efforts are underway and that limited personal information is being released in order to protect him.”
Communist New People’s Army guerrillas are active in the hinterlands of the Davao region, about 975 kilometres southeast of Manila, where they have denounced foreign mining operations and military counterinsurgency assaults.
Abu Sayyaf militants are notorious for kidnapping foreigners and Filipinos for ransom in the vast Mindanao region. In 2001, Abu Sayyaf militants tried unsuccessfully to seize hostages from the Pearl Farm Beach Resort south of Ocean View during a ransom-kidnapping spree.
The Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 people, mostly European tourists, from a diving resort in neighbouring Malaysia in 2000, then abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos the following year from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province southwest of Manila.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen are still holding other hostages, including two Malaysians, a Dutch bird watcher kidnapped nearly three years ago, and a town mayor. All are believed to be held by the militants in their jungle bases in southern Sulu province.
*With files from Global News