KOTA KINABALU: Two leaders of the notorious cross-border kidnap group known as the Muktadil Brothers were killed after a surprise raid in a Sulu island in southern Philippines.
The brothers, identified as Nelson @ Nikson and Braun @ Brown, were killed on Tuesday, hours after they were captured when they tried to escape while being escorted out of Pata Island near the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo Island.
The two were among six brothers who led the gang in a series of cross-border kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah, and were high on the wanted list in Malaysia and Philippines.
According to Philippines intelligence sources, Nikson and Braun were fast asleep in a hut in their hideout near Poh Tambulian, Daungdung, in Pata island, when a crack team captured them at around 5am.
The sources said the heavily armed brothers had no chance to fire their weapons and after their capture, were immediately escorted out of the hideout.
However, as they were being escorted in a convoy, the brothers grabbed the firearms of the arresting officers and opened fire in a bid to escape.
The soldiers returned fire, killing both, at around 8.30am, the sources said.
Nelson and Braun were among the five key leaders of the Muktadil Brothers, but Mindas was killed by Jolo police in May 2015 while his twin Kadafi was arrested in Jolo late last year.
The eldest of them, Badong, remains at large but intelligence sources say he alone is unlikely to pose a threat as a little known sixth brother, Sampas, was also killed in the Philippines last year.
“It can be considered the gang has been crippled. They have been on the run and not been involved in any of the kidnappings over the last six months.
“The threat of kidnappings will continue as long as the Abu Sayyaf exists,” a source said.
He said that a key Abu Sayyaf commander, Indang Susukan, who was responsible for Malaysian kidnap victim Bernard Then’s beheading last year, is also facing a setback with two of his key lieutenants killed and two others seriously injured in military operations in their hideout in Jolo.
The source said that another sub-commander, Albahsi Misaya, is in hiding amid mounting Philippines security pressure on the group in their hideout in the hilly jungle terrains of Jolo.
Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Filemon Tan Jr confirmed that Nikson and Braun were killed.
He said the Muktadil brothers had been involved in kidnappings in which the victims were handed over to the Al Habsy and other Abu Sayyaf groups.
“It is a major blow to the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya because the siblings served as sea guides and navigators during the group’s conduct of high-seas kidnappings,” he said, referring to Abu Sayyaf’s cross-border kidnappings since 2013.
The Muktadil brothers are the sons of a notorious pirate who operated in the waters off Sabah’s Semporna from the neighbouring Tawi Tawi chain of islands.
Nikson had lived in Semporna and was involved in drug smuggling before joining with his brothers to form a notorious cross-border kidnap group.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the Malaysian authorities were waiting for official confirmation of the deaths of the two brothers.