Two U.N. Workers Kidnapped in Philippines
CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (AP) _ Nine armed men kidnapped two female United Nations workers in a mostly Moslem province of Mindanao island, the military said today.
Teofila Smith and Linda Madrid were traveling to Masiu in Lanao del Sur province when they were abducted Wednesday, said Lt. Col. Woodrow Estrera.
He said two unidentified companions traveling with the women were released unharmed, but that Ms. Smith and Ms. Madrid were taken to a forested area near Butig, some 530 miles south of Manila, and had not been heard from since.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, he said.
Estrera said he did not know the nationalities of the women, who worked for the U.N. World Food Program. He said the kidnapping was not reported by local authorities until today.
U.N. officials in Manila could not immediately be reached by telephone today, but clerks in their offices said they were unaware of any foreigners working for any United Nations agency in Mindanao.
The province has been plagued by a wave of kidnappings, some of them by criminal gangs and others by Moslem rebel groups.
Ms. Smith and Ms. Madrid were kidnapped in the same area where two Swiss Red Cross workers, Jacky Sudan and Alex Braunwalder, were abducted in May and later released, he said.
Officials blamed the May kidnapping on disaffected followers of provincial Gov. Tarhata Lucman who were demanding appointments to local government posts.
Last month Brig. Gen. Cesar Tapia vowed to crack down on kidnappings and urged local commanders not to hesitate to use force against armed gangs.