An Australian resident of a southern Philippine town was kidnapped late Monday in the restive region notorious for abductions, triggering a massive military search, the military said.
Armed men abducted Warren Rodwil, 53, in Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay province and were heading to the coast, where military and police forces were trying to rescue him, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said.
The area was the scene of heavy fighting in October when government troops overran a camp of Muslim rebels and outlaws suspected to be behind a series of kidnappings.
They suffered some casualties but the main group of the original 100 guerrillas scattered and are still believed to be active.
The violence is linked to a decades-old Muslim rebellion for self-rule in the southern Mindanao region, homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines.
A cease-fire with the main rebel group has held since 2008 despite recent clashes in Zamboanga Sibugay and nearby Basilan Island, although other groups have staged their own attacks and ransom kidnappings.
Just last week, one of three South Korean businessmen who were released from a month of captivity in a nearby province died of complications from an internal infection, police said Monday.
Choi Inn-so, 52, died in a hospital in southern Cagayan de Oro city last week after undergoing surgery. He was abandoned by his kidnappers Nov. 24 in Lanao del Sur province, said Cagayan de Oro police chief Gerardo Rosales.
Quoting Choi's doctor, Rosales said the businessman developed an infection in his lungs, kidneys and heart. It was possible he got sick while in captivity, he said. The other two hostages were released unharmed.
It was not clear who was responsible for their abduction.
The al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations, is believed to be holding an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese, along with several Filipino hostages on nearby Basilan and Jolo islands.
Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.