ZAMBOANGA CITY: Government troops killed an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader tagged behind the kidnapping of two German tourists in a gun battle in Sulu over the weekend.
Military spokesperson Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela said Sihata Latip engaged security forces trying to arrest him in Duyan Kaha village in Parang town late Saturday afternoon. She said one soldier was killed and another wounded in the fighting.
“Latip was killed when he resisted arrest and engaged security forces in a firefight. One soldier was killed while another is wounded during the brief clash with the Abu Sayyaf leader,” Muyuela, quoting a military report, told The Manila Times.
She said a report by Col. Alan Arojado, commander of an anti-terror task force in Sulu, tagged Latip as involved in the kidnappings of foreigners and attacks against security forces in the province.
“Latip was involved in the kidnappings of foreigners and in the series of violent attacks against government forces. The military and police are continuously pursuing notorious leaders of the Abu Sayyaf who are now on the run in Sulu,” Muyuela said.
Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Catapang commended state troopers for killing Latip who was implicated by authorities in the April 25 kidnappings of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55.
The Abu Sayyaf freed both hostages on October 17 allegedly in exchange for a P250-million ransom. The duo was heading to Sabah in Malaysia on a private yacht from a foray in Palawan when ASG militants – who were returning to Sulu from a failed kidnapping in Sabah – spotted the Germans and seized them on April 25.
Military authorities said that ASG bandits are hiding in civilian communities and have moved their hostages from one hideout to another, making it extremely difficult for security forces to track them down. A firefight earlier this month killed and wounded over 50 soldiers and ASG militants in Sulu’s hinterlands.