MALAYSIAN security forces killed a leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping group and captured two of his cohorts in a foiled kidnap attempt in Lahad Datu, Malaysia Saturday afternoon.
The attempted kidnapping occurred only hours after three soldiers were killed while 10 others were wounded in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf group in Patikul, Sulu on Saturday morning.
Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Command, said Malaysian authorities are still looking for two more Abu Sayyaf bandits who disappeared after Malaysian navy vessels sunk their speedboat around 2:40 p.m. Saturday.
Tan identified the slain Abu Sayyaf leader as Abraham Hamid, who is believed to have been responsible for the kidnapping of two Canadians, one Norwegian and a Filipina at a beach resort in Samal City on September 21 last year.
Malaysian authorities said Hamid and his men had just landed at the shore of Lahad Datu town in Sabah on an alleged mission to snatch another batch of victims when they were intercepted by Malaysian security forces.
Hamid is also believed to be behind the attack on the Indonesian tugboat Henry which was traversing waters between Tawi-Tawi and Lahad Datu when the bandits intercepted them and forcibly took four of their five crewmen hostage.
“The death of Hamid is a big blow to the ASG as it neutralized one of the notorious bandits leader and will degrade their capability for spotting and kidnapping victims in the future,” Tan said.
Tan said the two captured ASG bandits were identified as Samsung Aljan and Awal Hajal.
The foiled kidnapping happened shortly before the start in January of a joint army training program agreed between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia to secure the Sulu Sea from rampant piracy.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had earlier explained that the trilateral training would begin with each of the three countries training their own army personnel in January 2017 before joint training later in the year.
The military training will take place in Indonesia’s Tarakan in North Kalimantan, Malaysia’s Tawau in Sabah, where Lahad Datu is located, and the Philippines’ Bongao Island.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the three training locations would later become outposts for a joint task force assigned to help secure Sulu waters.
The trilateral training was agreed between Lorenzana, Ryamizard and Malaysian defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein in a series of meetings that started in August.
Earlier on Saturday, the 35th Infantry Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Vlademir Villanueva, was holding military operations in Barangay Kabbon Takkas in Patikul when they encountered a group of over a hundred members of the Abu Sayyaf at around 10 a.m.
The group that clashed with the 35th IB is believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf senior leader Radullan Sahiron and sub-leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Yasser Igasan, and Mujer Yadah.
Tan said the firefight with Sahiron’s group means the military was already close to the group of the Abu Sayyaf leaders, subjects of the troops’ months-long manhunt.
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