ZAMBOANGA CITY – Security forces on Tuesday shot dead an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader linked to the spate of ransom kidnappings in Sabah in Malaysia following a firefight in the southern Filipino province of Tawi-Tawi, officials said.
Officials said the 48-year old Buchoy Hassan, who was known for his aliases Black and Bocoi, had been implicated by Philippine and Malaysian authorities to the 2013 kidnapping of Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei Chang, 58, in November 2013 – and freed 2 months later in Sulu province after paying huge ransom - at Pulau Pom Pom off Sabah’s Semporna town. Chang’s 57-year old husband Hsu Li Min was killed during the kidnapping.
“Buchoy Hassan or Bocoi was neutralized following a successful law enforcement operation launched by the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi and the police at his residence in Barangay Panglima Alari in Sitangkai town,” said Army Major Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command. “Hassan was one of the wanted personalities in Malaysia for his involvement in the abduction of Taiwanese national Chang An Wei at the Pom Pom Island Resort in Sabah in November 2013.”
She said soldiers and policemen recovered Hassan’s M16 automatic rifle and security forces seized 5 speedboats and several outboard engines, believed being used by the Abu Sayyaf in cross-border raids in Sabah.
Petinglay, quoting a military report, said that aside from kidnappings, Hassan – using his share of the ransoms to buy crystal meth, also controlled the illegal drug trade in Tawi-Tawi, and recruited members for his nefarious activities. “Hassan recruited cohorts and acquired several speedboats to sustain his illegal activities and became the key facilitator in the illegal drugs trade in Tawi-Tawi,” she said.
Major General Carlito Galvez, the regional military commander, said the operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing in Tawi-Tawi, just several hours by boat from Sabah, to prevent future kidnappings in the oil-rich Malaysian state.
“We are continuously conducting law enforcement support operations to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies in expediting the arrest of notorious members of the kidnap for ransom group and in pre-empting kidnapping attempts in the province,” he said.
Just recently, five Filipinos with alleged links to both the Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State, had been arrested in Sabah and Kuala Lumpur and were being investigated in Malaysia.
Two other Malaysians were also arrested by the police from March 8 to 12, according to a report by Malaysian newspaper The Star. The identities of the Filipinos were not immediately known, but all of them are with permanent resident status and ages 18, 27, 31 and 53.
The report said two of the Filipinos were believed to have collected funds from Malaysian terror suspects Mohamad Joraimee Awang Raimee and Dr Mahmud Ahmad. And the third Filipino was said to have sworn allegiance to Abu Sayyaf chieftain Isnilon Hapilon, who is also the head of the local Islamic State in the Philippines. While the other planned to join the Islamic State and fight in Syria.
Filipino security and foreign affairs officials did not give any statement over the arrest of the Filipinos, although they previously said that the Abu Sayyaf is sheltering not only Indonesian militants, but also Malaysian and Middle Eastern terrorists with some of them killed while fighting alongside local jihadists in Basilan, one of 5 provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.
President Duterte has ordered security forces to crush the Abu Sayyaf and other jihadist groups operating in the region and largely blamed by authorities for the spate of terror attacks and beheadings, including ransom kidnappings.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is actively operating in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, is still holding over 2 dozen mostly Asian sailors and recently beheaded the 70-year old German yachter Jurgen Kantner after his family failed to raise P30 million ransom demanded by the small, but the mostly notorious jihadist group in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)