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Philippine Daily Inquirer: Sis thinks kidnapped Filipina is still alive

Volt Contreras
Published: Feb 10, 2007

A SISTER OF JOSIEBETH FOROOZAN, the 26th Filipino abducted in Nigeria over the past two months, said yesterday her kidnappers claimed they lost her after she fought back while they were on a pumpboat and she jumped into the water.

The younger sister, Jane Gregorio, said her family believed that Foroozan was still alive, doubting sketchy reports reaching Manila that the 37-year-old mother of two may already be dead.

The kidnappers called up (Foroozans Iranian husband) to say that my sister fought back and jumped into the water. But knowing my sister, we believe she wouldnt do something like that, Gregorio told reporters at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

We have high hopes that shes still alive. We dont believe shes dead. I know my sister to be someone of great courage and who wouldnt do something that can be considered suicidal, Gregorio said in Filipino, on her way to meet DFA officials to seek help.

She said initial checks done by her family with Nigerian authorities proved negative earlier reports that a womans body had been recovered in waters where Foroozan and her abductors were believed to have been.

Authorities have counted Foroozan (not Orasan, as previously reported), as the first female victim of a spate of kidnappings victimizing foreigners in Nigerias oil-rich Niger Delta.

Unidentified gunmen seized her around midday of Feb. 7 near a bank on Stadium Road in Port Harcourt, Nigerias oil capital.

Gregorio, 30, said her sister still managed to call her husband Manouch on her mobile phone before the phone was snatched away by the abductors.

Recalling the call as told by Manouch, Gregorio said: She was ordered to get off her car and made to board a bus, where she was blindfolded. They traveled for about four hours.

She said they were already on a pump boat (at the time she made the call). Then somebody grabbed the phone. Shes been out of (cell phone network) coverage since.

DFA makes distinction

In a press briefing, Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said Foroozanoriginally from San Jose, Mindoro Occidentalmight not have been a political target, unlike the previous Filipino hostages, but a victim of a common crime.

Conejos said he had to make this distinction to dispel any apprehension created by the series of events that Filipinos were being targeted for abduction in the oil-rich African state.

A police matter

But Conejos conceded that this was merely my assessment, given the limited information reaching the Philippine government regarding Foroozan.

Conejos said the DFA, through the Philippine Embassy in Abuja, could not confirm second-hand reports reaching Manila earlier in the day saying that Foroozan may already be dead.

All facts (so far gathered indicate) that this is a police case, as distinguished from a national security case, like those of the 24 Filipino seamen and the engineer, Conejos said in a media briefing.

He was referring to the Jan. 20 incident where the all-Filipino crew members of German-listed cargo vessel Baco Liner II were held captive by militants operating in Warri, Niger Delta; and the Feb. 6 abduction of Winston Helera, an engineer subcontracting for oil giant Shell, also in Port Harcourt. Militants were also believed to be behind Heleras kidnapping.

Only one call

The Baco crew members were being held allegedly by members of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Foroozan has been a resident of Port Harford for the past 17 years and married to an Iranian businessman, Conejos said.

This Filipina has nothing to do with oil interests, he stressed.

Her abductors have since contacted her husband only once, on Wednesday night, Conejos said, reading from an embassy report to the DFA.

We have your wife

There was no demand made but (the call) was just to say that we have your wife.

Conejos said government efforts to save all 26 Filipino hostages through peaceful, diplomatic means would be the same whether the abductions were a national security or a police matter.

Last month, after the abduction of the 24 seamen, the DFA appealed to the Nigerian government not to resort to a military solution of the hostage crisis.

Conejos noted that of the 121 foreigners abducted in Nigeria last year, only seven were Filipinos.

Even the recent capture of the 24 seafarers could be considered accidental since they were not actually workers based in Nigeria, their vessel merely passing through Nigerian waters, he said.

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1 Comment on “Philippine Daily Inquirer: Sis thinks kidnapped Filipina is still alive”

  1. #1 shampoo
    on Feb 11th, 2007 at 07:47

    I am Hasan Parvez, recently I signed a contract paper as expatriate project manager with SHELL/NNPC SOKU GAS PROJECT , Rivers State , Port Harcourt , but till now I did not get the visa to go to Nigeria for my job. I hope it will come soon to me.

    I read the article, it was shocking, but I think if there is problem there must be a solution.

    I just can’t understand why till now I don’t get visa.

    The conserned authority must take quick action regarding this I hope.

    Thank you.

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