Islamists Kidnap 12 Teachers and Students (Philippines)

Manila, Philippines (AHN) – Armed men believed to be members of a Muslim militant group on Tuesday morning abducted 12 teachers and students while they were preparing for classes.

Reports reaching the capital Manila has shown that the armed men stormed the village of San Roque elementary school in Lanao del Norte, southern Philippines Tuesday morning at around 7am, local time.

The abduction of the teachers and students came as government negotiators are still trying to negotiate for the safe release of television journalist Ces Drilon, her cameraman and professor-guide, who were abducted by members of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Zamboanga also in southern Philippines.

The kidnappers of Drilon and company earlier gave until noon Tuesday to receive at least $700,000 in ransom or they will behead their hostages.

They later extended their deadline for ransom and promised not to hurt the journalist.

In Tuesday’s kidnapping, the military said the suspects took mostly female captives and left behind male students.

The armed men fled with the victims on foot, authorities say.

The military is now conducting search and rescue operations for the victims.

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Boy Killed By Muslim Cleric for Not Memorising Koran (Pakistan)

A student of a religious seminary in Pakistan’s Punjab province has died after he was punished by his teacher, police say.

Atif, seven, was hung upside down from a ceiling fan by Maulvi Ziauddin for not memorising his Koran lessons, his fellow students told the police.

Atif’s condition deteriorated quickly and he died in the teacher’s room. Maulvi Ziauddin has been arrested.

Human rights organisation say Pakistani children are often exposed to abuse.

Arrested

The students told the police in the town of Vehari that Atif was punished on Wednesday by Maulvi Ziauddin who left him hanging from the fan for some time.

The son of a farm labourer, Atif lived in the seminary with about 20 other students, including a cousin.

“When his cousin did not see Atif on Wednesday night or the next morning, he informed the family,” a Vehari police official, Mohammad Afzal, told the BBC.

“Members of the family found Atif’s body in Maulvi Ziauddin’s room, but the cleric himself was missing,” he said.

He was arrested from a nearby village later on Thursday.

The police said they would file formal charges after an autopsy report is issued by the local hospital.

In a report published in January, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) – an organisation which monitors and compiles cases of child abuse and kidnapping – said children in Pakistan were increasingly exposed to abuse, kidnapping and violence.

The number of reported cases involving children has more than doubled from 617 in 2006 to 1,595 last year, the report said.

It blamed poor law enforcement and old social attitudes towards children’s rights as some of the reasons for the problem.

Somalian Islamists Kidnap and threaten Aid Workers

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Dozens of heavily armed gunmen kidnapped two Italian aid workers and their Somali colleague in southern Somalia on Wednesday in what a government official described as a “terrorist act.”

Police are pursuing the kidnappers, government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said.

“The kidnapping of two Italian aid workers and a Somali aid worker is a terrorist act. We condemn this barbaric act,” Gobdon told The Associated Press.

The gunmen, armed with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, surrounded the aid workers’ house in Awdhigle, village elder Ahmed Yunis said.

The gunmen then blindfolded the relief workers — an Italian man and woman and a Somali man — and took them away, Yunis said. He said it was not clear who the gunmen are or why they abducted the aid workers.

The village is about 45 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu.

Islamic insurgents vowed to target foreign aid workers after a U.S. missile strike killed the head of the Islamist al-Shabab militia, Aden Hashi Ayro, and 24 other people earlier this month. Ayro was reputed to be the top al-Qaeda commander in Somalia and was linked to a string of attacks on foreign aid workers and journalists.

Italy’s ambassador in neighboring Kenya, Pierandrea Magistrati, said that the Italian aid workers were taken from their home Wednesday morning and worked for the Italian aid organization Cooperazione Italiana Nord Sud.

“They’ve been kidnapped and we do not know where they are. We are checking with our contacts there (in Somalia),” Magistrati told The Associated Press. The ambassador said that so far the kidnappers have not made contact.

No country has an embassy or diplomats based in Somalia because of security reasons, and most embassies in neighboring Kenya are also responsible for dealing with Somalia.

Last month, a Briton and a Kenyan worker contracted to an aid agency were kidnapped and remain missing. Earlier this year, Doctors Without Borders pulled out its foreign staff from Somalia after two of them were kidnapped, and three foreigners and a Somali were killed when their car hit a land mine.

A German aid worker was also seized in February but released unharmed.

The insurgents have been battling the shaky transitional government since Somali soldiers and their Ethiopian allies ousted them from the capital in December 2006. The Islamists had ruled Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia for six months.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and turned on each other. The conflict between the government and the Islamists is complicated by a web of clan loyalties and the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia, which use Somalia as a proxy battleground.