ZAMBOANGA CITY: The police and the military are tracking down at least 23 people, mostly Abu Sayyaf members, identified and wanted by Malaysian authorities for a string of kidnappings for ransom and attacks at sea off Sabah.
Six of them, with warrants of arrest issued by the courts in the Philippines, along with 15 others are being pursued in the hinterlands of Sulu and Basilan provinces, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said.
The Eastern Sabah Security Command identified them as Apo Mike, alias Majan Sahidjuan; Hatib Hayan, alias Sawadjaan; Alden Bagde, alias Sayning; Muamar Askali, alias Abu Rami; Idang Susukan; and Alhabsy Misaya.
The 16 others being hunted are Salvador Muktadil, alias Badong; Salip Sosong, alias Mohamad Apsa Abdulla; Halipa; Ibrahim; Sabri Madrasul, alias Salip Jul; Las Pangit; Marajan Asiri; Raden Abuh; Bocoi; Sangbas; Berong Sairol, alias Boy Master; Bensaudi Sairol, alias Boy Pangit; Boy Intel; Atai Susukan; Durog Hussein; and Saidul Idul.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have agreed to deepen collaboration in stemming the kidnapping incidents in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas.
Since last year, authorities have countered the activities of the notorious Muktadil Brothers Gang with the deaths of Mindas Muktadil in May 2015, and Nikson and Brown Muktadil in September 2016.
Khadafy, one of the individuals named by Malaysian authorities, was arrested in November 2015 and detained at the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial Jail.
Early this November, Abu Sayyaf rebels killed Sabine Merz, 56, and snatched her German companion Jurgen Kantner, 70, after attacking their yacht off Sabah, several nautical miles from the southern province of Tawi-Tawi also in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The woman was naked when found on the boat and could have been raped. A shotgun was also found near her body.
The Western Mindanao Command tagged Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Muamar Askali after he phoned a media organization in Zamboanga City to say they are holding Kantner.
Askali demanded P500 million for Kantner’s safe release.
In April 2014, Askali’s group also kidnapped two German yachters—Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55— while heading to Sabah from a holiday in the Philippines.
Askali originally demanded from Germany—on top of a P250-million ransom—to cease all support to a US coalition campaign against ISIS, which is fighting for an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
The Abu Sayyaf threatened to kill the German couple if the military would launch a combat operation against them.
They were freed six months later after the German government paid the ransom.
Meanwhile, a battalion of battle-tested Philippine Marines was deployed in Central Mindanao, particularly in Sultan Kudarat province, to go after lawless elements and secessionist groups.
Acting Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado and Philippine Marine Corps commander Maj. Gen Andre Costales Jr., led the send-off for the 2nd Marine Battalion in Sangley Point, Cavite.