An Abu Sayyaf leader who allegedly beheaded two Canadians in the southern Philippines in 2016 is back on the list of wanted criminals in Malaysia one year after authorities dropped his name over reports he had been killed.
In its list released over the weekend, the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) names Abu Sayyaf member Ben Tatoh Quirino along with 17 other Filipinos linked to alleged trans-border crimes such as maritime kidnapping and piracy. Esscom included Tatoh on its 2017 list.
“Ben Tatoh and a few others in our 2019 list used to be in our earlier list, but in 2018, we took their names off our record because we believed then they had been killed,” ESSCOM commander Hazani Ghazali told BenarNews. “Most recently we received confirmation from our Philippine counterparts that they were still alive, so we re-added their names to the latest list.”
In December, Canadian research group iBRABO stated Tatoh was alive after images appeared on social media. It said the fugitive had been laying low for more than two years after allegedly beheading Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall.
iBRABO senior analyst Jeff Weyers said his group’s investigation revealed Tatoh was still on the loose and posing selfies on Facebook, including one that showed him wearing the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s counter insurgency unit’s uniform.
“To see that he and virtually all of his Abu Sayyaf cell members were on Facebook was infuriating. But we also realized it was an immense opportunity to gather as much open source intelligence as we could,” Weyers said in the report on iBRABO’s website.
PNP officials said the photo was not authentic.
“No, he was never a PNP member. We don’t have that name in our personnel database – former, active or AWOL,” PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr. told BenarNews.
Durana did not respond when asked if the militant could have been listed in the database under a different name.
“ASG are continuously being hunted by the government authorities,” Durana said, using an acronym for the Abu Sayyaf Group when asked if authorities were hunting for Ben Tatoh.
Weyers told BenarNews that Ben Tatoh’s images appeared on Facebook in October 2018 and updates were being posted as recently as November before the profile was taken down because he apparently had posed with the flag of the Islamic State (IS) terror group.
“Since then, another Facebook profile going by his other alias, Bhen Tatuh, has emerged,” Weyers said.
ESSCOM added six new names to its list of wanted criminals. They are Salip Mura Kayawan, Sibih Pisih, Titing Alihasan (also known as Iyot Panday), Roger Saji, Long Sahirin and Jul Aksan Abdurajan (also known as Halimaw).
“After our latest investigation and confirmation from the Philippine security forces, the new individuals are listed because they are suspected to have planned several trans-border crimes and are active and on the loose,” Hazani said in a statement.
The other 11 names had made previous lists.
Two names from the 2018 list, Malaysian militants Mahmud Ahmad and Amin Baco, were removed after officials determined they were killed in the 2017 five-month battle in the Philippine city of Marawi.
“We know there were reports that both had been killed but we still haven’t received official confirmation of their deaths through DNA testing,” Hazani told BenarNews. “We put them both on our 2018 wanted list because of this lack of confirmation, but for this latest list, we have removed their names.”