MILITARY and police operatives arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sub leader, also wanted for kidnap-for-ransom activities, during a joint manhunt operation on Monday in the town of Tungawan in Zamboanga Sibugay province, a police official said on Tuesday.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Victor Deona identified the arrested ASG sub-leader as Esmael Pingli, alias Tago Pingli.
Pingli was arrested by joint operatives of the CIDG, 102nd Brigade, 6th Special Forces Battalion, and 15th Division Reconnaissance Company along the national highway at the boundary of RT Lim and Tungawan town in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Deona said Pingli has standing warrants of arrest for a series of kidnap-for-ransom and illegal detention cases in Zamboanga Peninsula, including the abduction of Tito Bautista in Zamboanga City in 2008.
The CIDG chief added that Pingli was associated with Waning and Abral Abdulsallam Kidnap-for-Ransom Group (KFR).
Meanwhile, an improvised explosive went off at a school in Lamitan City, Basilan on Monday night but no casualty or injury was reported.
Police said the blast destroyed one of the classrooms in Dangkalan Elementary School.
The powerful explosion occurred just as troops recovered another improvised explosive in Tipo-Tipo town.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the blast and the foiled bombing in Tipo-Tipo, but the Abu Sayyaf and Malaysian jihadists are actively operating in Basilan.
Lamitan has been marred by explosions in the past by the extremist group that is fighting for an Islamic caliphate in southern Philippines.
Also on Monday, a Malaysian militant was killed and a Sayyaf camp was captured during weekend assaults launched by army troops and pro-government militias in Basilan.
The troops recovered the body of the slain militant and his identity was not immediately maid available except saying that he was a Malaysian national fighting alongside the ASG.
The recent killing is the second incident involving a Malaysian militant slain in an encounter with government forces in the province. In December last year, military forces also killed a Malaysian bomb expert – Mohammad Hussein – during clashes with the Abu Sayyaf also in Macalang village.
On March 25, government troops also killed Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Eric Ajibun and one of his followers in fierce clashes that left five soldiers and two militias wounded in Al-Barka town.
Ajibun is said to be an expert in making improvised explosive device (IED) and has been responsible in the series of bombings against government forces and business establishments in Basilan.