Criminal groups outside Cotabato City behind the kidnapping.
An Indian businessman, who owns two department stores in Cotabato City and North Cotabato, was abducted Tuesday night by four unidentified armed men after shooting dead his security escort and injuring another.
The military identified the kidnapped victim as Mike Khemani, 60, owner of the Sugni Superstore.
According to police report, Khemani was grabbed by the abductors in front of his business establishment along Bonifacio Street in Cotabato City while he was doing a regular tour inside and outside of his department store around 6:15PM.
Khemani’s escort, who was killed in the incident, was identified as Kaura Abdul, 26, while the other wounded was identified as Mustapha Abdulrahim.
Witnesses said the victim and the suspects were last seen transferring to a motorboat along Rio Grande de Mindanao, where policemen found the getaway Hyundai car (MCW-692) abandoned, and sped upstream toward Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.
As of writing, no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. However, based on the initial report gathered, recovered from the abandoned vehicle (Plate Number MCW 692) are Official Receipts and Certificate of Registration named under a certain Norhaya M. Lakman, a resident of MB, Kalanganan, Cotabato City.
Police and Marine elements have already launched a city-wide manhunt against the fleeing suspects.
There were already abduction attempts against Khemani before as he had reportedly escaped kidnapping twice in 2007 and 2009.
Analysis and Recommendations
The aftermath of the Zamboanga siege have alerted several key cities in Mindanao, specifically Cotabato city.
Cotabato city considered to be the heart of Muslim Mindanao politics that houses almost all key government offices have been bombarded with various intelligence reports of possible attacks. Many security analysts believed that successfully occupying the city was vital in maintaining the momentum of the MNLF factions’ actions. Hence, several attempts were already made, even with the aid of other rebel groups such as BIFF. However, combined forces of military troops have fortified the defense of the city and made such attempts futile.
The recently concluded barangay elections have also maintained the heightened security measures in the city.
It was believed that proliferation of income generating crimes such as kidnapping and extortion will increase as more resources are needed. First, to recover the MNLF factions’ cost with regard to the previous Zamboanga attack and to finance barangay election campaigns. Several intelligence reports also lead to the possibility of some politicians hiring rebel group members to conduct such activities.
This kidnapping incident is believed to have been launched by a highly organized crime group, who targets foreign nationals and businessmen in Cotabato City. Kidnap victims are usually transported outside Cotabato city for necessary negotiations.
It is also believed that the group has been closely monitoring the victim and may have establish his business routines of inspection checks; and took advantage of the opportunity last night. This incident also became an eye opener to some businessmen, politicians and security practitioners that crime groups in the area are becoming bolder and no longer intimidated by security escorts.
Hence, partners (travelers and local staffs) are advised of the following:
- Exercise extreme precautions and vigilance in one’s surroundings
- Develop internal reporting protocols among local staffs. Immediately report any suspicious individuals or belongings
- Maximize external intelligence networks and establish best practices among the group in avoiding and mitigating impacts of possible threats.
- Avoid establishing patterns. As much as possible, identify and take at least three possible routes every day.
- Do not entertain queries nor share any personal nor business-related information.
- Travellers should strictly follow travel itineraries and avoid side trips.
- Coordinate with local authorities before going to the area for the necessary arrangements and coordination.
- Always have a security escort/s at all times. Security escort should be provided with the necessary refreshers on tasks, responsibilities and emergency response.
- If possible, facilitate business-related meeting inside the local office.
- All logistics and coordination requirements should be prepared and made by local staffs in order to limit travellers purpose in going out.