Philippines Captures a Top Abu Sayyaf Suspect

Ben Hajan and Mark Navales
Jolo and Cotabato, Philippines
180626-PH-ASG-1000.jpg Abu Sayyaf militant group leader Abu Sabaya (left, standing) and other rebels are seen in Jolo, Philippines during a crisis in which he and his followers were holding Western and Asian hostages abducted from Sipadan, a tourist hotspot in nearby Malaysia, Aug. 24, 2001.

Philippine security forces have captured an Abu Sayyaf commander who took part in the 2001 mass abduction of 21 Europeans and nine Asian resort workers from a Malaysian diving spot popular with tourists, police said Tuesday.

The suspect, Suaib Hayudini, an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub-leader with a bounty of 600,000 pesos (U.S. $11,170) on his head, was caught in the remote southern island of Jolo on Sunday, regional police commander Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares said.

“Our police in Jolo were conducting law enforcement when he was spotted at the vicinity of Walled City village,” Mijares said.

Hayudini was allegedly involved in the abductions 17 years ago of a group of hostages, including tourists from Germany, France, South Africa, Lebanon, and Finland, as well as Malaysian and Filipino resort workers. Abu Sayyaf militants abducted them during a daring cross-border raid into Sipadan, a popular Malaysian resort, and then took them to the jungles of nearby Jolo, where they held them hostage for months.

The audacious kidnapping also introduced Abu Sayyaf, a small but extremely brutal band of militants, to the world. The Philippine government was unable to launch a full-scale military attack out of fear that the hostages would be harmed, but the militants agreed later to release the captives one by one in exchange for millions of dollars in ransom.

Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said efforts to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf and rescue their hostages continued.

Nowadays, Abu Sayyaf is holding 12 hostages who include three Indonesians, one Vietnamese, one Dutch national and seven Filipinos. Two Canadians and a German were beheaded over the last two years after their governments refused to pay ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf group, numbering less than 500 members, was founded in the early 1990s by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, an Afghan-trained Islamic firebrand. The group was set up to fight for a separate Muslim state in the southern Philippines, but Janjalani’s death later in that decade followed a succession of leadership, and the group evolved into a notorious criminal group.

ASG has been blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including the bombing of a passenger ferry on Manila Bay that left more than 100 dead people dead in 2004.

One of its leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, later pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and sacked the southern city of Marawi. The five-month battle left some 1,200 people, mostly militants including Hapilon, dead.

Over the weekend, eight soldiers were injured when ASG detonated a homemade bomb while troops were conducting a clearing operation in the outskirts of Patikul, a town on Jolo island.


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