Cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Eastern Sabah Southern Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia led to the apprehension of 2 Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leaders and 6 of their followers in Sabah on Saturday, May 8.
Joint Task Force Sulu provided the intelligence background, while Malaysian security forces launched a police special operation which led to the capture of the 8 Filipino suspects in Beaufort, Sabah, before dawn Sunday.
Arrested in the joint anti-terror operation were Sansibar Bensio, and Mabar Binda. Both are sub-leaders of the Eastern Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group.
Other suspected ASG members apprehended were: Muayyar Binda; alias Sansis; and alias Firdaus, members under ASG leader Mabar Binda; Lugah Sanchez, and Bonijar Samsula, both members under the late ASG leader Juhurim Hussein (based in Patikul, Sulu); and Alim Sukarno, a member under Sansibar Bensio.
“Based on the report from the ground, the ESSCOM responded to the information provided by the Joint Task Force Sulu and launched a police special operation in Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna, Beaufort, Sabah around 3:00 o’clock in the morning., May 8, 2021, Saturday,” said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan, Jr, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
Major General William Gonzales, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said Bensio, and Binda (the known successor of his father Hatib Munap Binda) are both sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group/Kidnap-for-Ransom Group based on the eastern/second district of Sulu.
“They are involved in the series of armed confrontations with the (Philippine) military including the encounter on July 2011 at Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu wherein the late 2nd Lieutenant Michael Baladad of the Philippine Marines was beheaded,” said Gonzales.
In a report by Malaysian state news agency Bernama, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the suspected terrorists were apprehended with 29 other Filipinos in a mangrove swamp area during the operation conducted by police and the Eastern Sabah Security Command.
“We have checked with the Philippine security forces, and they confirmed that the 8 men are members of the Abu Sayyaf group who escaped to Sabah following an operation conducted by the security forces in the southern part of the country (Philippines).
‘’The check also found that two of the Abu Sayyaf group members are named in the list of men wanted by the Philippine government,’’ Ghazali told a media conference which was also attended by ESSCom commander Datuk Ahmad Fuad Othman at the Sabah police contingent headquarters Monday, May 10.
Ghazali said preliminary investigations found those detained were not involved in kidnap for ransom in Sabah and were believed to be using the state as a hiding place.
According to 4th Marine Brigade Commander Colonel Hernanie Songano, “due to the sustained intelligence, focused military operations, and civil-military cooperation in the province of Sulu particularly in the second district, the now-apprehended personalities escaped and transferred to Sabah and established an ASG cell based thereat to conduct spotting and casing of probable kidnap victims and facilitate the Foreign Terrorist Groups operating in the Southeast Asian countries conducting terror activities in the Philippines.”
Philippine military officials said the suspects were also involved in the following encounters:
- February 2018 at Bay Sunog, Bud Bawis Complex that resulted in the deaths of 5 ASG members;
- December 2019 at Sitio Jatih, Bud Bawis Complex that resulted in the successful rescue of two Indonesian nationals and the death of the late ASGSL/KFRGL Hairulla Abduraja;
- November 2020 at Bay Takas, Bud Bawis Complex that resulted in the deaths of ASG member Bensio Barahama and ASG leader Hatib Munap Binda.
Bensio was also involved in the kidnapping of the foreign citizens identified as Lorenzo Vinciguerra (Swiss), Ewold Horn (Dutch), and Indonesians Samiun Bin Maneu, Maharudin Bin Lunani, and Muhammad Farhan.
Among their Filipino victims were Ronnie Sandagon, Jerel Pepito, Eddie Reubal, Marcial España, Arvin Sabaduquia, Rufino Bustillo, Joseph Bani, Hajan Terong, Joshua Bani, and Michelle Tolentino Panes.
Vinluan said: “The intensified intelligence operations and the support of the community coupled with the constant coordination between the AFP and the ESSCOM contributed to the successful neutralization of the ASG sub-leaders and their cohorts. The arrest of these terrorists is a big blow to the ASG.” – with reports from Richard Falcatan and Bernama/Rappler.com