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'5 Indonesian hostages guarded by 30 Sayyafs in Sulu village'
Published on: Saturday, February 01, 2020
By: Zam Yusa
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Map of Sulu's Maimbung municipality (Photo: Google Maps).
Kota Kinabalu: The five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped in Lahad Datu waters in January were recently seen in a Sulu village guarded by some 30 armed Abu Sayyaf men led by a sub-leader wanted by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), a Filipino terrorism expert told Daily Express.

The Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, Prof Rommel Banlaoi, on Friday said the five were seen on Jan 21.

“They were sighted together with some 30 armed Abu Sayyaf members led by Apo Mike in Barangay (Village) Tambaking, Maimbung municipality, Sulu,” Rommel said, citing tips from official intelligence sources he had obtained.

“The Indonesians, identified as Arsyad Dahlan, La Baa, Riswanto Hayono, Edi Lawalopo and Syarizal Kastamiran, are reportedly being fed once a day.

“Suspected Abu Sayyaf members kidnapped the Indonesians in waters off Tambisan Island in Lahad Datu, Sabah.”

Apo Mike is the alias used by Majan Sahidjuan, who is among 18 cross-border Filipino criminals on Esscom’s last wanted list issued in January 2019.

The Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Maj Arvin Encinas, when contacted, could not confirm the information.

Daily Express is still awaiting a response from the Philippine military whether there is a pursuit or rescue operation in Maimbung.

However, the Philippine armed forces usually do not confirm or deny information Daily Express obtain on the locations of ongoing hostage rescue operations.

Last year, Daily Express reported Apo Mike to have been among four Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders who handled three previous Indonesian hostages.

The trio, who were snatched from their shrimp boat in September last year also in Tambisan Island waters, were reportedly rescued by the Philippine military in December and January.

However, Daily Express earlier in January reported that the Indonesian government had paid ransom for the release of the three Indonesians which emboldened kidnappers to snatch the latest five fishermen, citing information from a government source close to the ransom negotiation that took place with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of the trio.

The other three hostage handlers are Mokong (most probably an alias), Sibih Pisih and Salip Mura, the last two of whom are also wanted by Esscom but Sibih was killed in a military operation in Indanan, Sulu last November.

Mokong is the son of Hatib Hajan @ Sawadjaan, who is also on Esscom’s wanted list and was identified as the “acting emir” of the Islamic State terror group in the Philippines in a 2018 report by the US Department of Defence.

This came after another Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, the Islamic State’s emir-designate in Southeast Asia, was killed towards the end of the 2017 Marawi siege by his group and the Maute militant group.

Sawadjaan, whose stronghold is reportedly in Patikul, Sulu was also tagged as the mastermind in the January 2019 cathedral suicide bombing by a married Indonesian couple in Sulu’s capital city Jolo.

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

The Abu Sayyaf, which has a faction that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has been blamed by Malaysian and Philippine authorities for previous kidnappings in the Sulu Sea which is shared by both nations.


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