Indonesian Captive of Abu Sayyaf Militants Killed in Southern Philippine Clash

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga Philippines and Jakarta
200930_ID_sailors-abusayyaf_1000.jpg Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (second from right) hugs the wife of a sailor during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta to mark the handover of 10 Indonesian sailors after they were freed from the custody of Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines, on May 2, 2016.

One of five Indonesian fishermen held captive for eight months by the Abu Sayyaf Group was killed during a shootout between government troops and militants in the southern Philippines, officials in both countries confirmed Wednesday.

The hostage, identified as fishermen La Baa, was fatally struck by gunfire during a clash between soldiers from the 45th Infantry Battalion and an Abu Sayyaf unit led by Majan Sahidjuan (also known as “Apo Mike”) in Patikul, a town located in a remote part of Jolo Island, on Monday, according to a police report obtained by BenarNews.

“Accordingly, one of the [five] KVs was hit during the encounter and allegedly expired due to gun shot wounds he suffered during the encounter,” the report from the Sulu Provincial Police Office said, using the police term for “kidnap victims.”

La Baa (32), along with boat captain Arsyad Dahlan (41), and fishermen Arizal Kastamiran (29), Riswanto Hayano, (27) and Edi Lawalopo, (53), were seized by Abu Sayyaf militants in mid-January in waters off an island in nearby Sabah, Malaysia, and taken to Jolo.

An Abu Sayyaf fighter known as Alsibar Taha (alias Urot) was also reported to have been killed during the gunbattle, the police said.

It was not immediately known if La Baa was shot by his captors while trying to escape or was hit as both sides traded fire.

“This office is still conducting further verification regarding the information,” the provincial police office said in its report, which was dated Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Alaric Delos Santos, a spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said it would be issuing an official statement on the reported death of the kidnap victim. He did not elaborate.

In Jakarta on Wednesday, Indonesia’s top diplomat confirmed that one of the five Indonesians held hostage by Abu Sayyaf had been killed during a clash between the militant group and the Philippine military on Monday.

“We have been informed that one Indonesian hostage, with the initials L.B., has died during a gunbattle between the Philippine security forces, the 45th Infantry Battalion, and the Abu Sayyaf group in Patikul City, Sulu Province, the Philippines,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a  weekly news teleconference.

Retno said the sailor’s body was taken from Sulu Province to Zamboanga on Wednesday and would later be flown to his hometown in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi province.

“On behalf of the government, I would like to express my deep condolences to the families of the victim on the death of this Indonesian citizen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has delivered this sad news directly to the family of the deceased and the local government in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi,” Retno told reporters.

It was not immediately why Retno identified the victim only by his initials, but La Baa was the only one of the five hostages with those initials.

The waters that separate the southern Philippines from next-door neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia have been notorious for kidnappings carried out by sea by Abu Sayyaf militants, although the Jan . 16 abduction of La Baa and his four fellow Indonesians was the last reported case.

Since 2016, at least 54 Indonesian nationals have been targeted in 16 maritime kidnappings, including in Sabah waters, an official at the Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said earlier this year.

In 2017, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesian launched trilateral patrols aimed at preventing acts of piracy and kidnappings at sea along their common maritime boundaries.

Meanwhile elsewhere on Jolo this week, troops were also on the trail of Abu Sayyaf commander Mundi Sawadjaan, who is believed to be travelling with an Indonesian couple being groomed as suicide bombers.

Sawadjaan is a nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf commander who heads the Islamic State branch in the Philippines and is wanted for plotting a bomb attack that killed 23 people at a church in Jolo town in January 2019.

In August, Philippine authorities accused the younger Sawadjaan of planning two suicide bomb attacks that killed 15 people near the site of last year’s church attack.

Ronna Nirmala in Jakarta contributed to this report.


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