ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces arrested two Abu Sayyaf militants tied to the kidnappings of Australian and American citizens during a raid in this city, officials said on Tuesday.
Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman, said Jimmy Nurilla and Bakhrin Haris were caught in their hideout in Sangali village.
Samuddin said two others, identified by their first names Leo and Walid, managed to escape and are being hunted down by security forces.
“There is an operation right now and we are tracking down those who escaped,” he told The Manila Times.
Samuddin said Nurilla and Haris have ties with the group of Abu Sayyaf leaders Puruji Indama in Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region; and bomb expert Khair Mundos, who was recently captured by soldier and policemen in Parañaque City.
Police also linked them to the kidnapping of Australian Warren Rodwell in Zamboanga Sibugay province on December 2012 and US citizens Gerfa Yeatts Luns–mann and her son Kevin in Zamboanga City on July 2011.
Nurilla and Haris were also tied to the abduction of Filipina teacher Cathy Mae Casipong in Zamboanga City on December 2013 as well as the kidnapping of Sabrina Voon in Zamboanga City on February this year. Voon remains in captivity.
Last month, government soldiers also captured Abu Sayyaf militant Najil Ajijul following a brief gun battle in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siocon town.
Troops also recovered a .45-caliber pistol from the militant, who was tracked down in the province following the arrest recently of another Abu Sayyaf bomber Nujir Ahidji in a village outside the military’s Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City where the US maintains a high-security facility under the command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines which is helping local troops fight terrorism.
Also in May, policemen captured a 36-year-old Abu Sayyaf member Harijin Jinny in downtown Zamboanga while working as a security guard on a store just outside the police headquarters. His arrested came after commandos raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Zamboanga’s Santa Maria village and killed two militants and captured six others following a firefight that wounded one policeman.
In January, security forces in Zamboanga City captured another member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, Jun Akilan who was implicated in several kidnappings in the region. Akilan was arrested in the village of Talabaan while visiting his family.
Akilan is being linked to the kidnappings of teachers in Zamboanga City and also traders in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces.