Palace sees Abu Sayyaf hand in Sabah abduction

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The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) may be behind the abductions of a Filipino staff and a Chinese tourist from a resort off Semporna in Sabah, Malaysia, on Wednesday night, Malacañang said on Friday.

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It cited a report from military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala that said the victims, both women, were snatched by seven fully armed men believed to be members of an ASG unit in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Mindanao.

“The abductors are believed to be [from]the group of Murphy Ambang Ladia, a.k.a. Haji Gulam, native of Pandami Island, Sulu, and a former MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] leader who joined the Misuari breakaway group in 2001, and was designated as the [faction’s] Logistics and Transportation Officer,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press conference.

Misuari is Nur Misuari, founder of the MNLF, a rival of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that recently signed a peace agreement with the government.

“Subject [Gulam] later joined the ASG [unit]operating in Tawi-Tawi under ASG [leader]Binang Sahirol. Initial available information obtained further stated that said abductors proceeded [to the]vicinity of Simunul municipality, Tawi-Tawi, eluding Malaysian authorities conducting pursuit operations,” Lacierda said.

The abductors “immediately boarded a white . . . speedboat with a blue stripe and proceeded toward the Philippine Sea,” he added.

Lacierda said Task Force 62 of the Western Mindanao Command will conduct support operations to the police offices of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Tawi-Tawi in connection with the Sabah incident.

But a police intelligence officer also on Friday said another ASG unit kidnapped the Filipino hotel worker and the Chinese tourist.

This unit is based in Tanum village in Patikul, Sulu province, according to the officer, who asked not to be named since he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

He said they are checking reports that the two women were brought by their captors to Tawi-Tawi, which is much nearer Semporna than Sulu.

The intelligence officer, however, added that the victims are being held in Tawi-Tawi but that “negotiations” are taking place in Sulu.

He did not say who were negotiating, except that “it has always been like that as in past abductions.”

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs identified the abducted Filipino woman as Marcelita Dayawan, 40.

“[Philippine] Embassy officials are in touch with Miss Dayawan’s relatives and are extending consular assistance [to them]. Philippine and Malaysian authorities are closely and actively working together toward the speedy resolution of the case,” the DFA said.

In Sulu, the provincial police chief said they cannot yet say if the ASG was behind the abductions.

“We still have no confirmation whether the [ASG] was behind the [incident]and if the gunmen have sneaked into the Sulu Archipelago, but we have alerted our forces and continue to gather intelligence information about this incident,” Senior Supt.

Abraham Orbita, told The Manila Times.

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