KOTA KINABALU: Philippines security forces have killed a suspected Abu Sayyaf gunman believed to be involved in the kidnapping of five Indonesian fishermen off Lahad Datu last week.
In the incident, six gunmen kidnapped the hostages and fled on foot as they landed on Solre Island in Parang, within the militants group's stronghold in the southern Philippines island of Jolo.
According to regional intelligence sources, Philippines military set up a cordon around Jolo following reports of kidnapping of five Sabah based Indonesia fishermen and a shootout occurred late Saturday (Jan 18).
"They conducted air strike operations using MG helicopters on a suspected Abu Sayyaf group in Solre Island that resulted in the death of one of the militants," the source said.
The source said a grey-blue coloured speedboat and a mobile phone were also seized.
On Thursday (Jan 16) night, six militants from a kidnap-for-ransom group linked to suspected Abu Sayyaf militants abducted five Indonesian fishermen from their trawler at Sabah's easternmost waters off Lahad Datu, about 10 minutes from the Tawi-Tawi chain of islands in the sourthen Philippines.
The six gunmen picked the five hostages from the eight-man Indonesian crew on board the Sabah-registered fishing trawler before heading towards southern Philippines waters.
Security forces under the Eastern Sabah Security Command were alerted about the incident by other fishermen at 1pm on Friday (Jan 17).
They immediately carried out an operation and alerted their Filipino counterparts.
Those kidnapped were the trawler's skipper, Arsyad Dahlan, 41; La Baa, 32; Riswanto Hayano, 27; Edi Lawalopo, 53; and Syarizal Kastamiran, 29.
All were Indonesians working for a Sandakan-based fishing company.
Regional intelligence sources said that the Philippines military are hot on the trail of the gunmen and the hostages.