KOTA KINABALU: The shadow of the notorious Muktadir brothers looms over the latest disappearance of five Malaysian sailors whose tugboat was found listing in waters off Lahad Datu on Monday.
According to Filipino sources based in Jolo, the other Tawi-Tawi-based brothers known as Badong @ Brown and his brother Nikson @ Nelson are said to be back in business after a few months on the run.
The sources said the two were suspected to be behind the kidnapping of the Malaysian sailors.
Officials here and in the Philippines are not sure whether the sailors had been brought to Jolo.
Badong, who now calls himself Commander Brown, and Nikson were said to be assisted by the men of another Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, Al Habsi Misaya.
The sources believed the gunmen and their captives arrived in Jolo on Tuesday, but the Philippines military said they were still verifying the report.
In Manila, Philippines presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said they had received reports of the kidnapping, and indicated that the Abu Sayyaf might be involved.
The five sailors have been identified as Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Tayudin Anjut, 45, Fandy Bakran, 26, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, all from Tawau, and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, from Pahang.
The five were reported missing from their tugboat at 3pm on Monday by its owners after other vessels’ crewmen spotted it listing in Dent Haven waters in Lahad Datu an hour earlier.
Jolo-based activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said Al Habsi was in the thick of the kidnappings, with his men guarding the four Indonesian tugboat crewmen who were abducted at international waters on June 27 and were now held at a mountainous jungle hideout in Indanan.
He said that the Indonesian fishermen who were snatched from a Malaysian fishing vessel near Sinakut, Lahad Datu on July 9 were being held by another Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, Indang Susukan, in Talipao.
The Indonesians – Lorence Kotten, 34, Teo Dorus Kopong, 42 and Emanuel, 46 – were held with Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad.
The Muktadir brothers numbering between five and eight siblings led by Nikson have been keeping a low profile, with one brother, Mindas Manda, killed in Jolo in May last year while another, Kadafi, was arrested by Philippines police on the island.
They said that Nikson was keeping a low profile following the beheading of Malaysian hostage Bernard Thien on Nov 17.
In Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said police received information that the five Malaysian sailors who were missing were kidnapped and brought to Southern Philippines.
They are believed to have been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen.
“We have received information that they were kidnapped and brought to Southern Philippines,” he told reporters.
Noor Rashid added that so far there was no ransom demand from the kidnappers.
Noor Rashid said police had yet to ascertain the identity of the group of perpetrators.
“It may be a splinter group,” he added.
Sources said the recent spate of kidnappings involving some two dozen Indonesian and Malaysian sailors in six incidents along the Sabah Tawi-Tawi sea border since late April also involved Apo Mike.
Octavio said the kidnap-for-ransom groups preferred to keep their hostages in Indanan as the mountainous area was a stronghold of the Moro National Liberation Front led by Nur Misuari.
Family members of the missing Malaysians believe that the five were kidnapped and were praying for their save return.
Hasnavati, the daughter of Abd Rahim, said her father’s employer informed them on Tuesday that a call purportedly from the abductors was made to him late Monday.
She said they had claimed they were in Basilan, another Philippine island close to Jolo, where Abu Sayyaf also operated from.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said there were no calls from the kidnappers.
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