Gulf Today

8 Abu Sayyaf terrorists arrested in Sabah raids

- Manolo B. Jara

MANILA: Two subleaders of the Daesh-inspired Abu Sayyaf terrorists, blamed for the kidnapping of two European bird watchers and four Indonesian fishermen, and six of their members have been arrested in a series of raids conducted on the Malaysian state of Sabah, according to a top Philippine military official.

Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, the chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the arrests resulted from close cooperatio­n between the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s and the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

Vinluan reported that among those arrested, based on informatio­n received from their Essom counterpar­ts, were Abu Sayyaf subleaders Sansibar Bensio and Mabar Binda tagged in the abduction of European bird watchers as well as four Indonesian fishermen in separate instances.

The eight terrorists were arrested in a series of raids conducted by Essom operatives in Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna in Beaufort, Sabah before dawn on Saturday based on intelligen­ce informatio­n relayed to them by the Philippine military, according to Vinluan.

He described the arrests as a “major blow” to the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Daesh in the Middle East. He added the close co-ordination between Philippine­s and Malaysian security officials prevented the terrorists from launching violence in Sabah.

In a separate interview, Major General William Gonzales, the head of the Joint Task Force Sulu, revealed that Bensio and Binda were involved in the abduction of Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerr­a and Dutchman Ewold Horn while they were birdwatchi­ng in Tawi-tawi in 2012.

But Horn was killed by his abductors while trying to escape to escape in May 2019 during an encounter between government forces and the terrorists in Patikul, Sulu, Gonzales said.

He added the two were also linked to the kidnapping of four Indonesian fishermen who were rescued in January 2020.

The Abu Sayyaf has gained notoriety through a spate of kidnap-for-ransom activities that were oten marred by the beheading of their foreign and Filipino hostages.

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