AUTONOMOUS Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office director, Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore C. Sindac yesterday announced the capture of four suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits said to be involved in the November 11, 2016 kidnapping of six Vietnamese sailors, two of them beheaded by the gunmen early this month.
Sindac identified the four as Taha Upao, Bryan Upao, Ibrahim Akhmad and Ibno Akhmad, all residents of Sitio Suba, Barangay Ulame in Lamitan City, Basilan.
He said the four yielded one M-1 Garand rifle and a fragmentation grenade during the operation conducted by officers led by Chief Inspector Jolly Sabtal. Sindac said that the four have been the targets of Coplan ‘Jack Sparrow’ launched by the Basilan Police Provincial Office headed by Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan to account for Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island-province.
All four were taken to the Basilan police headquarters shortly after their arrest. They will be charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives initially.
Last July 5, Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded two of the Vietnamese sailors they seized in Basilan last November and dumped their decapitated bodies and severed heads in a village in Sumisip town.
The victims were identified as Hoang Thong and Hoang Va Hai, two of the crewmen of M/V Royal 16 cargo vessel snatched by the extremists more than seven months ago near the Sibago Island in Basilan. One of the sailors managed to escape from Abu Sayyaf captivity last June 16.
The bodies with severed heads were found by villagers in Barangay Upper Tumahubong in Sumisip town. The severed heads were placed by the terrorists between the right armpit of the bodies.
The first body believed to be that of Thong was wearing a black shirt, loose pants and rain boots while that of a man believed to be Va Hai was found wearing loose pants and rain boots without any shirt.
The terrorists who executed the two dumped their bodies and heads along the dirt road and covered them with banana leaves before fleeing.
Armed Forces spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla Jr. said the Abu Sayyaf executed their captives to show that they remain a force to reckon with.
The official said that months of continuing military offensive against the extremists in Basilan and Sulu apparently has taken its toll on the bandits.
Last June 16, a fellow hostage of the two victims identified as Hoang Vo managed to escape from his Abu Sayyaf guards as the military pounded the extremists’ jungle hideout with artillery and air strikes.
The Vietnamese was recovered by soldiers from the Joint Task Force Basilan at the Sumisip-Ungkaya Pukan Complex “following an airstrike launched against the group of Furudji Indama,” the AFP Western Mindanao Command said. The victim was found with a wound on his back but was later declared on stable condition after being given medical attention.
The 28-year old Vo was listed by the Coast Guard as the second mate of the vessel. The AFP said that the Vietnamese found his opportunity when his captors “dispersed due to the airstrike and artillery fires delivered by the troops.” Ground troops also recovered four rifles at the enemy encampment.
Security officials said that the Vietnamese nationals were brought by the Abu Sayyaf in their hideouts in Bgys. Macalang and Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town shortly after the incident.
Reports said the extremists used a twin-engine speedboat when they attacked M/V Royal 16 and grabbed skipper Pham Min Tun and his crewmen Hoang Vo, Do Trung Hieu, Tran Khac Dung, Huang Trung Thong and Huang Van Hai.
Another Vietnamese identified as Pham Van Trong was wounded in the incident. The victims were on their way to Davao City from Vietnam when they were surprised by the terrorists.