POSTED: 10:52 p.m. HST, Dec 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:57 p.m. HST, Dec 15, 2011
MANILA, Philippines >> Philippine police stormed a kidnappers' hideout and rescued a 4-year-old American boy who was held for ransom for eight days, officials said Friday. Five suspects were arrested in the second recent case of a kidnapped U.S. minor in the Philippines.
The boy, who was living with his Filipino mother and American father, was seized in Manila on Dec. 6 by three gunmen who cut off the car he was traveling in with the mother, said Isagani Nerez, head of the police anti-crime unit.
A $13,600 ransom was paid three days later, but the kidnappers demanded $113,000 more before releasing the boy, whose identity has been withheld, Nerez told reporters. The father, an engineer, sought the help of the U.S. Embassy and FBI, who sent representatives to the national police headquarters to coordinate with local authorities in securing the victim's release, Nerez said.
He said police feared the boy would be harmed and traced his location to the kidnappers' hideout in Prieto Diaz town in eastern Sorsogon province. On Wednesday, police stormed the site, rescued the boy, who was unharmed, and arrested three of his alleged captors. A follow-up operation led to the arrest of two more suspects in Manila on Thursday.
"We were worried that the kidnappers would kill the boy if their demand was not met," Nerez said. "It was the reason why we decided to launch the assault on the kidnappers' lair."
After a medical checkup found the boy to be in good health, he was reunited with his family, Nerez said.
The boy's identity was withheld because of privacy concerns. Nerez said he was attending an international school in a Manila suburb.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Betina Malone told The Associated Press that the U.S. authorities were appreciative of the efforts of Philippine police in rescuing the boy. "It was the result of a great deal of hard work," she said, adding that U.S. authorities expected those responsible to be prosecuted and punished.
The five suspects were charged by the Department of Justice with kidnapping for ransom and are being held in police detention pending trial. If convicted, they face up to 40 years in prison.
"They are new faces," Nerez said, adding that the suspects have not been previously linked to kidnappings.
He said they could be linked to the communist rebel New People's Army, which has a strong presence in Sorsogon province.
Last week, 14-year-old American Kevin Lunsmann escaped from suspected al-Qaida-linked militants in the southern Philippines after five months in jungle captivity. His Filipino mother was freed two months ago, and their cousin escaped last month.
Kidnappings for ransom are more common in the impoverished, volatile south, home to a long-running Muslim insurgency. But abductions have also taken place in Manila, which was once notorious as the kidnapping capital of Asia. Children of wealthy Filipinos are often targeted and many cases go unreported to police.