Hostages held in south Philippines

Schoolchildren among group of civilians seized by gunmen on island of Mindanao.

    The hostages were seized early on Thursday during a raid on a village in Agusan Del Sur province

    Police were reportedly pursuing the gunmen, who appeared to be using the hostages as human shields to escape after a clash with authorities in a nearby village on
    Wednesday.

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, said it was unclear what the group wanted although police say there is no political or religious motive for the kidnapping.

    She said the group was known to local police having been armed by the Philippines government a decade ago to fight against communist insurgents in the area.

    Extortion

    The group is similar to the force suspected by authorities of carrying out last month's massacre of 57 political activists and journalists in a nearby province, also on the island of Mindanao.

    Jaime Milla, a local police official, told the Associated Press the gunmen believed to be behind Thursday's kidnappings were former militiamen who had been dismissed and turned to banditry and extortion.

    He said the gang was known to have previously targeted mining and logging companies in Agusan del Sur and nearby provinces.

    Our correspondent said that last month's massacre and now Thursday's kidnappings had many Filipinos questioning whether it was a good idea to arm these groups in the first place, when the army should have been fighting the insurgents.

    "People are saying this was a monster the government had created, and it's now come back to bite them," she said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.