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Australian abducted by gunmen in Philippines

world Updated: Dec 06, 2011 12:18 IST

Reuters
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Philippine police are searching for gunmen they suspect to be members of an Islamist militant group who kidnapped an Australian national on a southern island, with bloodstains at the scene pointing to a struggle.

Warren Richard Rodwell, a retired Australian army soldier, was taken at gunpoint on Monday night from his house in Ipil town on the southern island of Mindanao, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Randolf Cabangbang said.

Cabangbang said Rodwell, 53, resisted his captors and was seen being dragged to a vehicle that sped off towards the coast.

"We're still tracking down the gunmen to prevent them from taking their captive to nearby islands," Cabangbang told reporters.

Police believed the gunmen were members of the Abu Sayyaf group, which has links to al-Qaeda but has had its activities largely confined to the southern Philippines in recent years.

Police Inspector Rommel Ramos told reporters that flip-flops with blood stains were found near the front door of the Australian's house, and a pistol was found inside.

"It was possible that he was shot, or he was the one who shot," Ramos said.

Rodwell had recently settled in his wife's hometown in Zamboanga Sibugay province, where Islamist militants and criminal gangs operate.

The government has been talking with the country's largest Muslim rebel group to end 40 years of conflict that has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and hobbled growth in the poor but resource-rich Muslim communities in the south.

In October, security forces dropped bombs and stormed the mountain lairs of a rogue Muslim rebel group, which has refused to take part in talks and is blamed for bomb attacks and kidnapping in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

In July, another group of gunmen abducted three people, including a naturalised American woman and her 14-year-old son, on an island near Zamboanga City. The woman was freed nearly three months later but her son remains in captivity.