Philippine Officials Arrest Militants Linked to String of KidnappingsOctober 11, 2016 in Abu Sayyaf
Philippine officials have reported that two Islamic militants linked to the abductions of 26 Malaysia and Indonesian sailors this year were killed on 27 September in a military raid off a remote Philippine island.
The military operation on Tuesday occurred off Tambulian Island in the Sulu island group, which is a mainly-Muslim archipelago that is also an Abu Sayyaf stronghold. It is located about 1,000 km south of Manila. A statement released by the Philippine military disclosed that Nixon Muktadil and his brother Brown Muktadil, both of whom are members of the Abu Sayyaf group, died in “strike operations” by an anti-terror task force at dawn. The statement further disclosed that “the death of the Muktadil brothers is a major blow to the group…because they serve(d) as th sea guides and navigators during (the ) conduct of kidnapping at the high seas,” adding that the brothers helped kidnap the crewmembers of five tugboats that were carrying coal and other commodities in waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. According to the military, the kidnappings occurred over a six month period earlier this year. The spike in abductions resulted in officials warning that the region could become the “next Somalia.” The warning pushed the three neighbour states to pledge coordinated patrols.
Most of the twenty-six sailors are thought to have been released, however the Philippine government has disclosed that Abu Sayyaf is still holding five Indonesian hostages, however it remains unclear if they include any of the sailors. Earlier this month, the militant group freed four Indonesians and a Norwegian hostage. Earlier this year, it beheaded two Canadian hostages and released Indonesian and Malaysian sailors in batches.
Also on Tuesday, police announced that they arrested in Manila a Sulu politician who has been accused of having sold government-issue guns to the Abu Sayyaf group. According to officials, the raid on Saturday (24 September) on the house of Unding Kenneth Isa, turned up grenades, assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, most of them were government-issue weapons. Police have disclosed that Isa, who ran for vice governor of Sulu in May elections but lost, has been accused of sending weapons by ferry to the Abu Sayyaf group as well as other armed groups in the south.