LAHAD DATU: Four Abu Sayyaf commanders capable of mounting large-scale kidnappings are being hunted down on both sides of the Sabah and southern Philippines sea borders.
Top on the hunted list are the hot-tempered Al Habsi Misaya and his comrade Sarip Mura, followed by the ageing Radulan Sahiron and Hatib Sawadjaan – all targets for elimination.
Two other commanders of the terror group are Idang Susukan and Apo Mike although intelligence sources believe they could have been killed or seriously injured in gun battles in Jolo island.
There is also conflicting intelligence on whether Hatib is dead or alive.
Intelligence sources said Al Habsi, a syabu addict in his 30s, managed to elude bombardment by the Philippine military and dragnets on Jolo island over the last few months.
He has gone into hiding in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, according to the sources. Al Habsi is believed to have financed previous cross-border kidnappings in Sabah by providing fuel money, boats and firearms, the sources added.
They said Al Habsi, who owned large tracts of land in Zamboanga mainland and properties in Jolo town, was flush with cash and was the key man in many of the ransom negotiations.
He was blamed for scuttling negotiations for the release of Bernard Then when he demanded more money during the release of Sandakan Ocean King Seafood Restaurant manageress Thien Nyuk Fun two years ago.
Bernard was then in the custody of Idang’s faction in the Jolo jungle.
“But Al Habsi seized Bernard from Idang after the deal was done. Al Habsi refused to release Bernard to negotiators until more money was sent.
“That was the last we heard about Bernard who was later beheaded (Nov 17, 2015),” said a source with knowledge of the negotiations.
Al Habsi, who is believed to have recovered from recent gunshot wounds, has evaded the Philippine military which has killed at least 10 Abu Sayyaf commanders in operations to wipe out the terror group on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Some even say that Al Habsi is being “protected” by certain quarters within the military who considered him an “asset”.
The sources said Al Habsi faction sub-commander Salip Mura, who was among the senior gunman involved in Sandakan’s Ocean King incident, could launch another hit on Sabah. Salip is also a relative of the Sawadjaan family of Hatib.
The Sawadjaan family were on the security forces radar after their involvement in the Nov 15, 2013, attack on Semporna’s luxury Pom Pom Resort where one Taiwanese tourist Hsu Li Min, 57, was killed and another, Chang An Wei, 57, abducted.
Idang is the brother of the late Mujib Susukan, who was the key figure with Galib Andang @ Commander Robot in the Easter Sunday Sipadan kidnappings on April 23, 2000.
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