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4 BANDITS KILLED IN CLASH, SAYS MILITARY

Abu Sayyaf captive escapes, another drowns, 3rd shot

/ 11:25 AM April 06, 2019
 Island in Sulu where Abu Sayyaf are holding hostages

This undated photo provided by Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Saturday, April 6, 2019, shows the island where an Indonesian hostage held by Muslim militants was rescued by Philippine troops on Friday, April 5 in Sulu province in Mindanao. Officials said Saturday, an Indonesian hostage swam his way to freedom but another drowned while a Malaysian was shot in the back while escaping. (Photo from AFP WesMinCom via AP)

Updated @ 11:28 p.m., April 6, 2019, to add more details, change dateline

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Two kidnapped Indonesian fishermen managed to free themselves from their Abu Sayyaf captors, but one drowned while swimming to freedom, the military said on Saturday.

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Col. Armel Tolato, commander of the Philippine Marine Ready Force Sulu, said one of his seaborne patrols on Friday afternoon saw four Abu Sayyaf members swimming toward Bangalao Island from the neighboring island of Simisa with their two Indonesian captives.

The four bandits were killed in the firefight that ensued.

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One of the Indonesians, Heri Ardiansyah, was plucked from the waters by Marines on board the gunboat while they recovered the body of his companion, Hariadin, who had drowned.

Snatched off eastern Sabah

The two Indonesians were among three foreign fishermen who were snatched on Dec. 6 last year from the waters near Pegasus Reef off Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo Island and taken by speedboat to Sulu, the military said.

The third captive, Jaribin Abdulla, an Indonesian by birth who became a Malaysian citizen, was rescued a day earlier, also in the waters off Simisa Island.

Abdulla, who was shot in the back as he escaped, is now confined at the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Zamboanga City.

Government forces had surrounded Simisa Island, where a small community thrives near mangroves, to hunt down the remaining Abu Sayyaf gunmen, according to Col. Gerry Besana, public affairs officer of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“The island had been blockaded for the past 41 days. They [kidnappers] probably thought they could slip past us by swimming,” Besana said.

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Recovered weapons

Tolato said they recovered two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles, one M203 grenade launcher, one 40mm ammunition, one M16 magazine, several rounds of ammunition, cellular phones, solar charger and an improvised flotation device.

He said the slain bandits were believed to have operated under Nadjir Arik, a subleader of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

Besana said Ardiansyah arrived in Zamboanga City at dawn on Saturday and was brought to the Westmincom headquarters in the city.

Dutch birdwatcher Ewald Horn, abducted in 2012, a Vietnamese seaman and four Filipinos are believed to be still in Abu Sayyaf captivity, according to Besana.

Army troops on Friday clashed with about 80 Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town in a fierce but brief gunbattle that left three soldiers and four militants dead and several wounded on both sides, the military said.

Aligned with IS

The rebels belong to an Abu Sayyaf faction led by commander Hajan Sawadjaan and aligned with the Islamic State (IS) group.

IS issued a statement confirming it killed three and wounded 13 soldiers, but it said “the mujahideen returned safely to base.”

Sawadjaan is the main suspect in the bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral during a Mass that killed 23 mostly churchgoers and two suspected suicide attackers on Jan. 27 in Sulu’s capital town of Jolo.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization due to its brutal history of bombings, ransom kidnappings, extortion and beheadings. —With reports from AFP and AP

/muf /atm

3 Abu Sayyaf killed in Sulu encounter — AFP

Sulu is the southernmost province of the Philippines. (Image from Google Maps)

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Malaysian, Marines, rescue, Simusa island, Sulu
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