AN Abu Sayyaf leader died while an Indonesian kidnap victim was rescued following a firefight with government troops in Languyan town in Tawi-Tawi on Saturday night, the military reported yesterday.
AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan identified the slain Abu Sayyaf leader as Majan Sahidjuan, alias Apo Mike, whom he described as the mastermind behind a series of kidnappings.
Troops conducted the combat operation in Baragngay Kalupag Island based on information from residents about the presence of a group of Abu Sayyaf men in the area, according to Vinluan.
He said the Abu Sayyaf members opened fire at the soldiers upon their arrival at the area.
A firefight ensued, leading to the severe wounding and subsequent capture of Sahidjuan. Vinluan said Sahidjuan’s two men fled.
Sahidjuan later died of loss of blood.
“He was severely wounded during the encounter last night, we tried to save him but his gunshot wounds were fatal,” said Lt. Col. Venjie Pendon, commander of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6.
The Indonesian kidnap victim, Mohd Khairuldin, 15, was found by government troops in the same barangay at around 6:30 a.m. yesterday. The victim was presented to AFP chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana before noon yesterday.
Vinluan said Khairuldin got separated from the Abu Sayyaf during the firefight.
“He was seen by the civilians who reported it to our Marines. He was found by our troops with the help of the people of Kalupag Island,” he said.
Sahidjuan was among five Abu Sayyaf men who went to Tawi-Tawi, from Sulu, with four Indonesian kidnap victims last Thursday, aboard a boat. However, their boat capsized near the shore of South Ubian in Tawi-Tawiafter it was battered by big waves.
Responding government troops rescued three of the kidnap victims identified as Arizal Kasta Miran, 30; Arsad Bin Dahlan, 41; and Andi Riswanto, 26. Also rescued were Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Sahud Salasim, alias Ben Wagas; and Injimar Mangkabong, alias Bensal Jakare, who were promptly arrested.
The four Indonesians were among the five kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf on January 17, 2020 off Tambisan in Malaysia. One of the five, La Baa, was killed by Abu Sayyaf members while trying to escape during an encounter between their captors and government troops in Patikul town in Sulu on September 29 last year.
“We are happy that all the hostages (Khairuldin, Miran, Dahlan and Riswanto) are safe now and we are also able to neutralize the notorious Apo Mike and two of his comrades (Salasim and Mangkabong),” Vinluan said.
Vinluan said there is no longer a kidnap victim in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf with the rescue of Khairuldin.
“We can now conduct massive focused military operation now that we’re not thinking of kidnap victims getting hit,” said Vinluan.
Vinluan said Sahidjuan was supposed to hide at the residence of his relative in Tawi-Tawi while negotiating for ransom for the Indonesian kidnap victims, owing to relentless operations in Sulu.
“Before, Sulu is their safe haven. When they seize kidnap victims from other areas, they bring them to Sulu because they know they are safe. Now, it’s the opposite,” said Vinluan.
Vinluan said the Abu Sayyaf’s strength in Sulu has been greatly diminished. He said Sulu-based senior Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiran has been wounded in a recent encounter.