KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — Two leaders of an Abu Sayyaf linked group believed to be responsible for several cross border kidnappings in Sabah were killed in a military operation in an island town off Sulu early this morning.
Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman Major Filemon Tan Jr said the suspects, brothers Nixon Muktadil and Brown were shot in a military offensive against the group in Tambulian Island within the Pata Island Municipality, Philippine news portals reported.
“Troopers from Joint Task Force Sulu and volunteers from Panglima Estino town launched the strike against the group in the vicinity of Tambulian Island in the municipality of Pata Island Municipality early Tuesday,” said a report in the Philippine Star.
“The two Muktadil brothers are the leaders and the architect and expert navigators conducting the kidnappings of foreign nationals in the border of Malaysia,” it quoted Tan, who described their deaths as a major blow to the Abu Sayyaf group.
The two, who were armed, resisted arrest and were killed in a shootout. Their remains are expected to be transported to the Sulu Provincial Police Office in Jolo, Sulu for proper burial according to Muslim rites.
Tan said that the Abu Sayyaf group still holds at least six more Indonesians and five Malaysians, including a Dutch national, and four Filipino hostages all in Sulu.
The Muktadil brothers — Nixon, Brown, Mindas and his twin Kadafi and Badong — are believed to be involved in a series of kidnappings of Indonesians and Malaysians in the seas just off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in recent years.
According to a statement from the Philippine embassy, Mindas was killed in a shootout with law enforcement officials in Jolo, Sulu in May last year while Khadafy was arrested in November last year, also in Jolo, and is currently in jail. Badong is at large.
Kadafy is facing charges in the Philippines for the kidnapping of Malaysians Bernard Then, 37, and Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, both who were taken from a Sandakan restaurant on May 14 last year. Thien was later released but was beheaded in November.
In their statement, the embassy hailed the Philippine police and military’s relentless campaign to secure the safe and early recovery of all kidnap victims, including Malaysians, being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
“The law enforcement operations against the Muktadil gang is a manifestation of the determination of the Duterte Administration to safely recover all kidnap victims and put an end to the atrocities and terrorism that have been perpetrated by these lawless elements for years, and have cost loss of lives and properties and caused much distress and anxiety to local communities,” it said.
Upon the instruction of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, it said nine police and military battalions, comprising some 9,000 personnel, have been deployed to operations in suspected ASG hideouts in the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
“A significant number of unregistered motorized boats have been confiscated in recent days in Sulu and nearby waters, hampering the potential movements of ASG elements. A blockade by Philippine Navy elements is also in place.
“As a result, 21 ASG members surrendered and laid down their arms September 23, in Sumisip, Basilan,” it said.
The statement also quoted Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya as saying that there will be no let-up in the offensives against the ASG terror and kidnap group, and there is no deadline to the operations.
“The troops will remain in the area until the objective is accomplished.”