Police in the southern Philippines announced Tuesday that they had killed the suspected leader of a Filipino kidnap-for-ransom gang responsible for abductions of a retired Australian serviceman in 2011 and a British resort owner last year.
The suspect, identified as Maulana Aburi Akil and also known as Mamay, was a sub-leader of a Muslim gang with ties to militants from the Abu Sayyaf Group operating in Zambaonga del Sur province, regional police chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Cambay Jr. said.
Members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and a task force made up of police and military intelligence units carried out a raid targeting Akil’s hideout in the province but the suspect initially escaped, Cambay said.
“However, pursuing forces tracked down the suspect and engaged in another shootout at about 7:35 a.m. Monday that resulted in his death,” the regional police chief said.
“Mamay Aburi is the sub-leader of LLE-KFRG operating in Zamboanga del Sur and linked with the Sulu-based ASG,” Cambay said, using an abbreviation for the “lawless element-kidnap for ransom group.”
Monday’s raid that led to Akil’s death took place in Poblacion Muslim, a barangay or district of Titay, a municipality in Zamboanga Sibugay province.
Akil was involved in the December 2011 kidnapping of Australian traveler Warren Rodwell in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay, and the October 2019 kidnapping of British resort owner Allan Arthur Hyrons and his Filipina wife, Wilma, in Zamboanga del Sur province, police said.
The Hyrons were rescued after a month in captivity while Rodwell was held for 15 months before being freed after his family paid a small “board and lodging fee” – a euphemism for ransom.
Aburi was also named in a list of 21 suspected militants who appeared in a wanted poster released by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), a state in nearby Malaysian Borneo. The poster called for coordination with the Philippine authorities in the arrest of the suspects, Cambay said.
Small militant groups and kidnap-for-ransom gangs operate outside the command structure of the Abu Sayyaf, the Philippine south’s most notorious Muslim gang that specializes in abductions, bombings and beheadings.
A faction of the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo Island is commanded by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the de facto leader of the Islamic State extremist group in the Philippines. He is wanted for planning a spate of deadly attacks in the southern Philippines since last year, including a twin suicide bombing that killed 23 people at a church in Jolo in January 2019.
Sawadjaan took over from Isnilon Hapilon, himself an Abu Sayyaf commander who led pro-Islamic State militants during a five-month siege of the southern city of Marawi in 2017. Hapilon was killed toward the end of the battle of Marawi in October that year.