A 15-year-old Indonesian fisherman, who was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sabah, Malaysia in January last year, was rescued on Sunday following a military operation that led to the death of the bandit group leader in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), identified the rescued victim as Mohd Khairuldin, male, a resident of Kabupaten Wakatobi, a municipality in the province of Sulawesi Tengara in Indonesia.
Khairuldin is among the eight Indonesian fishermen who were allegedly abducted by seven Abu Sayyaf bandits on Jan. 17, 2020 while they were fishing in the waters of Tambisan Island located in the Sulu Sea within the borders of Sabah.
Out of the eight captives, only four were left in captivity after 14 months as three of them were released by the ASG while another one was killed during an encounter with the military in Patikul, Sulu on Sept. 29, 2020.
Aside from Khairuldin, the three other kidnap victims – Riswanto Bin Hayono, 26; Arical Kastamiran, 30; and Arsyad Bin Dahalan, 41 – managed to escape from their abductors last March 18 after encountering a sea mishap in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi.
According to Vinluan, Khairuldin was rescued by the military after an encounter erupted between elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 and three ASG kidnappers in Barangay Kalupag Island, Languyan, Tawi-Tawi.
He said the troops responded to a report about the presence of the armed men in the area on Saturday evening, March 20, prompting them to conduct an operation which resulted in a firefight. After the encounter, Khairuldin managed to flee from his abductors and were found astray by locals in the barangay around 6 a.m. the next day, March 21.
“Parang nahiwalay siya, nahiwalay tapos tumakbo ‘yung dalawang [kidnappers] so naiwan siya. Doon siya nakita ng mga sibilyan at tinuro na rin ng mga civilian sa mga Marines natin,” Vinluan said.
In the same encounter, the troops arrested Majan Sahidjuan alias Apo Mike, the pinpointed leader of the ASG sub-group engaged in kidnap-for-ramson activities. He was severely wounded during the firefight and later died due to severe loss of blood.
As of writing, pursuit operations were ongoing to apprehend the two escaped ASG kidnappers.
Vinluan said that Khairuldin and his kidnappers hid in the area after surviving a sea tragedy in Tawi-Tawi.
The military recalled that ASG leader Sahidjuan and four of his comrades were transporting their four Indonesian captives from Sulu to Tawi-Tawi last March 18 when their motorbanca was hit by big waves and capsized off Pasigan Island in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi.
“Muntik-muntik na silang maano doon sa Sulu kaya naghanap sila ng ibang area na mas safe sila (They were nearly caught in Sulu so they tried to find other areas where they would be safe),” Vinluan stated. According to the military commander, Sahidjuan’s group was supposed to seek shelter from his relatives in Tawi-Tawi.
“Magtatago lang sila, dito sila magpapalipas ng Ramadan habang nag-ne-negotiate sila sa possible ransom,” Vinluan added.
When the boat capsized, three kidnap victims – Hayono, Kastamiran, and Dahalan – along with ASG member Sahud Salisim alias Ben Wagas, 45, of Maimbung, Sulu, were washed ashore and found by police and military in Tandubas town, Tawi-Tawi on March 18.
Another ASG kidnapper identified as Bensal Jakare alias Enjemar Mankabong was rescued by the crew of passenger vessel M/V Kassandra and turned over to authorities.
Salisim and Jakare were flown via a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport aircraft to WesMinCom headquarters in Zamboanga City last March 19 for the filing of kidnapping charges.
Khairuldin was taken to the headquarters of the 2nd Marine Brigade in Tawi-Tawi for medical procedure and debriefing. His three fellowmen had already underwent debriefing after being rescued.
NO MORE CAPTIVES
With the rescue of the four Indonesian fishermen, Vinluan said that the ASG has no more remaining victims.
“Wala na. Pinoy wala na rin. Bale wala nang naiwan na kidnap victim doon,” he said.
He added that the ASG leadership under the command of Radullan Sahiron has suffered continuous setbacks due to the intensified military operations in their strongholds in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa).
“Aabot na lang sila ng mga 80 sa whole of BaSulTa. Sa Sulu pabagsak na ‘yun kasi si Radullan Sahiron mahina na raw dahil may tama rin ‘yan dahil sa sunud-sunod na encounter ng tropa.” (Martin A. Sadongdong)