All 3 kidnapped SKoreans now free in Philippines

AP News
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Posted: Nov 27, 2011 2:50 AM
All 3 kidnapped SKoreans now free in Philippines

Kidnappers abandoned two South Korean businessmen in the restive southern Philippines after troops closed in and the gunmen panicked, an army general said Sunday.

The gunmen had been holding three South Korean businessmen. The first, Choi Inn-so, was released Friday, apparently because he had fallen ill and was slowing down the group.

On Saturday, the other two were found in Lanao del Norte province. Army Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes said Wu Seok-bung and Kim Nam-du were weak and starving when troops found them.

A Filipino guide who was seized with the South Koreans on Oct. 21 was reportedly shot in captivity, and troops will continue to look for him and the approximately 15 kidnappers, army Col. Daniel Lucero said.

Lucero said the kidnappers were demanding as much as 50 million pesos ($1.2 million) in ransom but received nothing.

"We were told that the kidnappers were mad because they haven't received any amount and couldn't move freely because troops were roaming around," Coballes told The Associated Press.

Coballes said the kidnappers apparently lured the South Koreans with a nonexistent mining investment project. He urged foreign investors to deal with government agencies to avoid security risks.

Choi underwent surgery for a stomach ailment after being freed Friday. The two other South Koreans were in relatively good health aside from mosquito bites and bruises from weeks of traveling with their captors through the jungle, Coballes said.

Coballes said the kidnappers were not backed by the country's largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the country's impoverished south.

Ransom kidnappings have long been a problem in the southern Philippines and are blamed mostly on the smaller but more violent al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which authorities said was not involved in the abduction of the South Koreans. The group is holding an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese, along with a number of Filipino hostages.