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|Sunday, May 27, 2001, updated at 13:46(GMT+8)|
20 Kidnapped in Western PhilippinesTwenty people, including 13 Filipino-Chinese, two Americans, one Spanish American have been kidnapped Sunday morning by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in a beach resort in Palawan province, western Philippines, the ABS-CBN news channel reported.
The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Diomedio Villanueva confirmed the report and said the others were four staffs of the Dos Palma Resort, 25 minutes ride from Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital.
The kidnapping was conducted around 5:30 a.m. local time (GMT 2130, Saturday), and the kidnappers fled by a pumpboat with the hostages.
The two Americans were identified as Martin Burham and his wife Gracia, the Spanish American's name is Zobero Guillermo.
Pursuit operations are undergoing on the kidnappers and hostages off Palawan beaches.
On Thursday, armed men seized a ferry with 42 people on board in waters of Basilan province, south of Palawan, and released all passengers, but kept the four sailors before midnight Friday.
The military said the abduction in Basilan apparently avenged the deaths of gang members in recent clashes with the government troops,the military said Saturday.
Attackers in five speedboats stormed the ferry off the small islands in the Basilan area, 620 miles south of Manila.
Police said the abductors were likely members of Abu Sayyaf, an extremist Muslim group that gained attention last year when it took foreign tourists hostage from Malaysian diving resort Sipadan island for huge ransoms.
Last month, several Abu Sayyaf members were killed in clashes with local militias.
Two soldiers died and five others were wounded in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf on Friday and an unspecified number of rebels were wounded or killed, a military report said.
It was not immediately clear if the two kidnapping cases were related.
The 1,200-strong Abu Sayyaf, which says it is fighting to carve a separate Islamic state out of the area, darts between the remote, jungle-covered islands to attack the military and hide hostages.
After Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered an" all-out war" on the Abu Sayyaf on April 2, the military attacked with artillery, infantry and helicopters against the bandits.
Military officials said the Abu Sayyaf has regrouped in the last two weeks as the military was called off to guard voting in May 14 congressional and local elections.
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