KOTA KINABALU: Security forces in Sabah's east coast do not view notorious Abu Sayyaf-linked gunman Murphy Basaluddin Ladja as a threat, after Filipino authorities freed him due to lack of witnesses.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Deputy Comm Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the man, who was listed among the Esscom's wanted list, was aging and believes that he was no longer a threat to Sabah.
"No more a threat," he said when contacted about the release of Murphy, who is also known to go by the name of Mulpi Ladja and Haji Gulam.
Murphy was reportedly one of the leaders of the infamous 1996 attack on Semporna town and the 2004 kidnapping of a Chinese national from a resort in Semporna. He was believed to be also involved in kidnappings in the southern Philippines.
Philippines security forces captured him at a village in the southern Philippines' notorious Jolo island on July 9, this year, but released him on Oct 28 after none of the local Filipino victims were able to positively identify him, it was learned.
Regional intelligence sources have indicated that Murphy, who had suffered a stroke in late 2000, have kept a low profile but do not discount him as a threat in the future.
They explained that though Murphy was involved in a number of kidnappings, none of the victims were able to identify him as the hostages never saw him when they were being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militant groups.
They said the Philippines police decided to release him after witnesses linked to various cases involving him could not identify him.
The sources said Murphy had led some 30 gunmen in Sabah's east coast Semporna and taken control of the town for several hours before fleeing on April 23,1996.
During the incident, the gunmen launched a grenade attack on the Semporna police headquarters, as well as the marine police and General
Operations Force base at the old Semporna police station.
They held the town for at least three hours, firing randomly before a police counter attack had them fleeing. One of the gunmen was killed during the retreat. The attack was widely seen as revenge against the local police.
The sources said Murphy had also led the kidnapping of Chinese national Gao Huayun, a university student, and Filipino resort worker Marcy
Darawan on April 2,2014, from the Singamata Reef Resort. They were released on May 30 the same year after ransom payments were allegedly made.
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