ZAMBOANGA CITY: Navy seals captured six suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members, one of them a notorious hired killer wanted in Zamboanga City for a string of criminal charges, who allegedly were harassing a fishing vessel.
Officials said the suspects – Omar Amping, 39; Gabby Juwa, 35; Jadi Luhadi, 21; Alcimel Abdulla, 18; Madi Jalilul, 19; and Sakkam Dekani, 60 – were chasing after a fishing vessel in two speedboats when soldiers intercepted and eventually arrested them on Monday evening off Bolod Island near Tongkil town in Sulu province.
Amping is wanted by Zamboanga police for the bombing at Plaza Pershing here in 2007 that wounded over a dozen civilians.
Police authorities, then under Senior Supt. Manuel Barcena, also tagged Amping as a military informant, an allegation strongly belied by former Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga.
Barcena said three alleged bandits – Marjuni Ammala, Aristalon Isniril and Ronely Ahman – who were captured by the police, had tagged Amping as the one who recruited and provided them with the improvised explosive used in the attack.
Soldiers also seized an M16 automatic rifle and dozens of ammunition from the bandits, who are being interrogated.
The capture of Amping and five others came after a pro-government militiaman reported to the Philippine Navy under Rear Admiral Rene Medina that Amping’s group was harassing the fishing vessel Nancy 888 in the Sulu Sea.
The gunmen pursued the fishing boat from Saluping Island in Basilan until the soldiers, deployed by Medina to respond to the incident, caught up with the bandits and eventually arrested all of them.
Medina said the Quick Reaction Team of Naval Task Force 61 – with patrol craft BRP Manuel Gomez and one Navy Seal team – was immediately deployed to the area to save the fishing crew from possible hijacking and kidnapping.
He added that Amping’s group was taken to the headquarters of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao in Zamboanga.
“Further investigation revealed that Amping is a notorious gun-for-hire and ranked 4th in the Most Wanted List of Personalities in Zamboanga City with two standing warrants of arrest for five counts of murder,” he disclosed.
Police previously arrested Amping but he was freed for unknown reason.
In 2010, his cousin Beniser, a former soldier who was also wanted by the police for multiple murder cases, was captured in Zamboanga.
Hired killers are actively operating in Zamboanga and had been blamed for many gun attacks there.