MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Three suspected members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed after reportedly trying to kidnap "fishermen" who turned out to be undercover Malaysian maritime policemen.
Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), confirmed that 3 ASG members were killed, two were apprehended, while two others were missing after the incident.
This happened off Sabah and Borneo, between Lahad Datu and Semporna, past 9 pm on Thursday, December 8.
In a statement, the AFP identified one of the casualties as Abraham Hamid, known as an ASG spotter, also reportedly the leader of ASG members involved in the kidnapping of Robert Hall, John Ridsdel, Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Maritess Flor in a Samal City resort in September 2015.
Hamid was also allegedly involved in the kidnapping of 4 Indonesian crew members.
The two other casualties were suspected ASG members Samsung Aljan and Awal Hajal.
The AFP said ASG members "were prevented by security forces in Sabah from executing their kidnapping plans by engaging them in a surprise shootout."
Covert anti-kidnapping ops
Based on initial information reaching the military, 6 fully armed men on a speedboat boarded a Malaysian fishing boat and attempted to abduct its crew members.
Little did the abductors know that the people they wanted to kidnap were Malaysian maritime policemen disguised as fishermen.
It was apparently a covert anti-kidnapping operation. Malaysian maritime policemen ended up killing 3 suspected ASG members, the initial report reaching the military said.
Philippine military and police officials have been validating this initial report with their Malaysian counterparts as of posting time.
There was no information whether Malaysians were injured or killed in the firefight that ensued.
The AFP said Hamid's death "is a big blow to the ASG as it neutralized one of the notorious bandit leaders and will degrade their capability for spotting and kidnapping victims in the future."– Rappler.com