Philippine Police Capture Alleged Abu Sayyaf Member Linked to Beheadings

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2021-09-15
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Philippine Police Capture Alleged Abu Sayyaf Member Linked to Beheadings Philippine police and militia members search for the bodies of hostages killed by Abu Sayyaf Group gunmen who attacked a coconut plantation on Southern Basilan island, Aug. 4, 2001.
AFP

An Abu Sayyaf militant who allegedly participated in the abductions of 15 farm workers, including five who were later beheaded, on the southern Philippine island of Basilan in 2001 has been arrested in Manila, the justice department said Wednesday.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) identified the suspect as Albazir Abdulla, also known as Abu Saif.

Police allege he was a member of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) unit involved in kidnapping the workers at the Golden Harvest coconut plantation on Basilan 20 years ago. Five of the workers were beheaded and dumped in a village near a military camp, while the rest were either freed or escaped, according to the military.  

“A victim-witness identified Abu Saif in a photo line-up as one of the abductors and a member of the ASG,” said NBI director Eric Distor, who led a Sept. 10 raid in a Muslim village in Quezon City that resulted in the suspect’s capture.

“After the incident, the ASG stayed in the mountains and some of its members assimilated back to society as ‘sleepers’ or ‘spies,’” he said.

Distor said ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon, who would later become the regional leader of the Islamic State, led the 2001 plantation attack. 

In May 2017, Hapilon led hundreds of Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern militants in a siege of the southern city of Marawi, where he sought to set up a regional base for the Islamic State. This triggered a five-month battle that killed some 1,200 enemy combatants, soldiers and civilians. Much of the city was destroyed in aerial bombings by government forces.

In 2001, ASG also abducted 20 tourists, including three Americans, at an upscale resort on the island of Palawan and took their captives to nearby Basilan. Two of the American captives were killed: one was beheaded by his captors and the other died during a military rescue.

Border security

Philippine security forces have tightened border patrols to thwart any possible terror attacks following a warning by Japan earlier this week of possible suicide bombings in Southeast Asia, the Philippine Coast Guard commandant said, while telling people they should not be alarmed.

Japan’s warning to its citizens came on the heels of a report by U.S.-based Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist communications online, that a pro-Islamic State militant group in Afghanistan had declared it was “time for war,” especially in Southeast Asian countries. 

Commandant Vice Adm. Leopoldo Laroya said forces would continue border protection measures and round-the-clock seaborne patrols. 

“Rest assured that our men and women will not put their guards down and will continue to be vigilant in conducting precautionary measures for public safety,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, national police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said police had not received any indication of an imminent attack, but were not taking Japan’s warning lightly. 

“Our intelligence monitoring has been continuing since the 9/11 attack in the U.S. and the Marawi incident, and our intelligence sharing and strategic partnership with other countries would continue in dealing with terror groups,” he told reporters on Wednesday. 

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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