UPDATE: Rescue ops for third Indonesian hostage ongoing
Published on: Sunday, December 22, 2019
By: Zam Yusa
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Photo: Westmincom
Kota Kinabalu: Two Indonesian fishermen abducted from a Malaysian fishing boat in the waters off Lahad Datu last September have been rescued by the Philippine armed forces while another still the subject of ongoing rescue operations.

Maharudin Lunani, 48, and Samiun Maneu, 26, were rescued during a 25-minute clash between Philippine troops and the Abu Sayyaf group at 4.43am on Sunday at Barangay (Village) Pugad, Old Panamao municipality, Sulu province.

As at press time, rescue operations are ongoing for Muhammad Farhan, 27, the Philippine military's Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Arvin Encinas told Daily Express.

“Troops from the 4th Marine Battalion engaged in a 25-minute gunfight with Abu Sayyaf militants at 4.43am,” Encinas said, adding they further exchanged fire in another encounter at 6.27am in the same village.

“The body of an Abu Sayyaf militant, identified as Hairula Itum, was found, while a trooper was also killed and another wounded in the battle.

"Several firearms, including an M16, an M203 and one Gunner rig with ammunition, were seized," Encinas said, adding Maharudin and Samiun were rescued in the first clash.

Westmincom Commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military will continue to pursue and neutralise militants with deliberate operations to rescue captives and thwart the group’s hostile plans.

“We have reinforced our troops and have cordoned off the area, so we are optimistic that we can rescue Farhan,” Sobejana said in a press release.

“This is part of our relentless effort to rescue the remaining captives and defeat the Abu Sayyaf before the end of the year.

“We offer our condolences to the bereaved family and loved ones of our soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace to thrive in Sulu.

“His gallantry will continue to inspire us to accomplish more for the common good.”

The three Indonesians had been kidnapped by seven gunmen while catching prawns off Tambisan Island.

Daily Express has been reporting on the movements of the hostages held by four different Abu Sayyaf handlers across Indanan and Patikul municipalities with the Philippine military in pursuit before the Old Panamao rescue.

When asked about the long evasion route from Indanan to Old Panamao taken by the hostage handlers, Encinas said: “The community helped determine their locations.”

Three of the hostage handlers – Apo Mike @ Majan Sahidjuan, Salip Mura and Sibih Pisih – are on the Eastern Sabah Security Command’s (Esscom) list. Sibih was killed in a November military operation.

The latest handler is known only by his nickname, Mokong, who Daily Express previously reported to be the son of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.

Sawadjaan is also on Esscom’s wanted list and is the acting leader of the Islamic State terror group’s network in the Philippines, according to a 2018 report by the US Department of Defence.

Sawadjaan was also tagged as the mastermind in January’s cathedral suicide bombing by a married Indonesian couple in Sulu’s capital city Jolo, which killed dozens.

He was also reported to be harbouring foreign terrorists, including Malaysians and Indonesians.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed by Malaysian and Philippine authorities for previous kidnappings in the Sulu Sea, a maritime area shared by both nations. 


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