Malaysian Cops Kill ‘Key’ Abu Sayyaf Militant in Shootout: Philippine Military

BenarNews Staff
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161210-PH-Indonesian-1000 Philippine policemen escort Indonesian national Muhamad Sofyan (in black T-shirt) from a hospital in Jolo, Sulu province, after he escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors, Aug. 17, 2016.

An Abu Sayyaf militant leader who was involved in abducting Westerners in 2015 was killed in a shootout with Malaysian police during a cross-border kidnapping attempt in waters off Borneo, Philippine military officials said Saturday.

Abraham Hamid and two other suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants were gunned down by members of an elite Malaysian police unit, the Tiger Platoon, during the encounter off Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah on Thursday night, according to a statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The AFP described Abraham as a “key leader” of Abu Sayyaf, saying he had led the September 2015 kidnapping of four people – two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina – from a seaside resort on Samal island in the southern Philippines. Abu Sayyaf this year executed the Canadian hostages, John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, after ransom demands were not met, but later freed the Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad.

Abraham was also involved in the April 2016 kidnapping of four Indonesian sailors from a tugboat sailing near the Tawi Tawi islands, the Philippine chain that lies close to Sabah, a regional spokesman for the AFP in the southern Philippines said in the statement.

“The death of Hamid is a big blow to the (Abu Sayyaf) as it neutralized one of the notorious bandits and will degrade their capability for spotting and kidnapping victims in the future,” said spokesman Major Filemon Tan. The names of the two other slain suspects were not listed in the statement.

Two suspects captured alive

The three suspects were among seven gunmen in a speedboat who hijacked three fishing vessels in the waters between the coastal towns of Lahud Datu and Semporna and abducted two captains that evening, according to Sabah Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun.

But Malaysian officials had yet to confirm the identities of the slain gunmen and say whether they were affiliated with Abu Sayyaf, an armed group based in the close-by southern Philippines that has pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State.

ASG has abducted at least 31 Malaysian and Indonesian sailors this year alone, as well as kidnapped Westerners and citizens of other Asian countries along the maritime boundaries that separate Borneo from the Philippines.

“The process of identifying those killed is still ongoing,” a Malaysian official told BenarNews on Saturday.

The authorities, who arrested two of the gunmen and rescued one of the two hostages following Thursday’s shootout, were still looking for two other suspects and the second hostage.

The shootout at sea marked the first such encounter between Malaysian security personnel and suspected Filipino gunmen in a cross-border kidnapping incident, officials in Sabah said.

According to a report in Singapore’s Straits Times, Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid told a news conference Saturday that the gunmen had infiltrated Sabah from international waters.

The firefight erupted after the gunmen mistook the Tiger Platoon’s patrol boat for a fourth that they planned to hijack, he said.

“We are still trying to get more information,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “We are still interrogating the suspects.”

Abraham commanded a unit that “prowled the porous borders” between Sabah and the neighboring Philippine province of Sulu, “looking for victims that they would then hand over to bigger groups” in Abu Sayyaf’s jungle strongholds in the far southern Philippines, The Star Online reported, citing Filemon Tan.

Out of at least10 Malaysians and 21 Indonesians who were taken in abductions believed to have been carried out by Abu Sayyaf in 2016, none were executed and 21 were released or escaped from their captors. Five Malaysians, Six Indonesians, six Vietnamese, seven Filipinos, a German and a Dutchman are still being held hostage in the southern Philippines.

Desmond Davidson in Kuching, Malaysia contributed to this report.


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