After 16 years in hiding, two Abu Sayyaf members who kidnapped 20 workers of a banana plantation in Basilan in 2001were arrested Friday night.
Chief Supt. Billy Beltran, regional director of provincial regional office-9 in Zamboanga City, identified the two ASG members as Emran Sanduyugan Ismael, alias Bantong Basinti and Bryan Ismail Mahommad, alias Pojong.
The two ASG bandits were facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention for their complicity in numerous criminal acts when subdued by police intelligence operatives inside the Mindpro City Mall in Zamboanga City at about 9:15 p.m.
Reports said the bandits were arrested on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Leo Jay Principe of the Isabela City Regional Trial Court with no bail recommended.
The arrest of Sanduyugan and Ismail brought to nearly dozens of ASG members who participated in the attack and kidnapping of at least 30 workers of Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan, Basilan in June 2001.
In the said attack, nine civilians were beheaded by the ASG at the height of the kidnapping.
The attack also resulted in the death of a worker who was shot by the bandits minutes before fleeing the scene to evade arrest from responding army and police personnel.
The arrested ASG militants were positively identified by witnesses whom identities the authorities withheld for security reasons.
The ASG operatives are now in the custody of the Zambaonga City Police Station-11 pending their turnover to the appropriate court.
Among those already arrested in the Golden Harvest attack by the ASG were Abu Usman who was nabbed at the Port Area of Isabela City in Basilan.
In July 2014, another ASG member, Ali Salih, also a culprit in the same incident, was arrested by joint police and military teams in Panigayan village in Malamawi Island, Isabela City.
At present, the ASG has been held at bay, not figuring in any terrorist acts following their defeat and the death of their supreme leader and ISIS emir in Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon in the Marawi City bloody siege.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were reported to be running out of funds and have linked with drug syndicates and is forcing civilians to shell out money in the form of “zakat” (religious tax) to fund its armed operations, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said.
In an interview, Mangudadatu said the collection of “zakat” is supposedly voluntary and no specific amount a Moro may share for the operation of a local Mosque or place of worship.
“But the BIFF has been doing it under duress,” he said. “This is happening in remote villages where poor farmers could not refuse forced taxation, otherwise, they will be harassed.”
Mangudadatu earlier told the Provincial Peace and Order Council, which he chairs, that BIFF members also turned to peddling illegal drugs, selling stuff in and out of Maguindanao.
The BIFF turned to illegal drug syndicates for funds while the drug lords ally with the armed group for protection in the wake of the intensified campaign against illegal drugs and drug personalities.
“It is a case of one group benefitting from the other in illegal activities,” the governor said.
To contain this problem, Mangudadatu urged the local populace not to give in to BIFF-imposed “zakat.” He urged local officials down to the barangays to help military and police authorities contain the BIFF so their villages would improve.
“This is for the benefit of people on the ground. The government cannot do it alone. We need the support of grassroots,” he added.
During the PPOC meeting, officials from the affected towns of Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi, Datu Hofer and Datu Salibo complained of forced taxation by the BIFF, informing the governor that many who resisted taxation were executed.
The military has repeatedly pounded BIFF positions in Maguindanao in the tri-boundaries of Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi, and Datu Hofer where the BIFF had harassed hundreds of families from Teduray communities since Dec. 25.
An estimated 800 Teduray families are currently staying in evacuation centers in the province due to the series of BIFF harassments. With PNA