2 suspected Abu Sayyaf in Dos Palmas kidnapping nabbed
MANILA, Philippines — Two alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf likned to a high-profile kidnapping incident over a decade ago were arrested by the military in Zamboanga del Norte Wednesday night, officials said Thursday.
Captain Alberto Caber of the Army’s First Infantry Division identified the two as Jojo Imam Pai and alias Aling who have been charged with the Dos Palmas kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
The two were apprehended through a warrant of arrest served by the elements of the 101st Infantry Brigade at about 10:40 p.m. at Sitio (sub-village) Bukana, Barangay (village) Usukan, Labason, Zamboanga del Norte.
They were brought to Zamboanga City for custodial debriefing and for proper disposition, Caber said.
The two Abu Sayyaf suspects were allegedly involved in the May 2001 Dos Palmas abduction of 20 people – including American couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero; and Filipino businessman Regis Romero.
Major General Rainier Cruz, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, said the two suspects, whom he described as “notorious Abu Sayyaf members,” were still being interrogated inside a military camp here.
“This success showed that we are of help to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in their law enforcement. Let’s continue with this bayanihan effort together with other sectors of the society to achieve long lasting peace and development in our communities,” Cruz said.
The Dos Palmas hostage-taking incident was among the high-profile attacks staged by the Abu Sayyaf.
After snatching the Burnhams, who belong to a religious mission to the Philippines; Sobero, Romero, and the other hostages, the gunmen – including the self-styled Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Aldam Tilao – fled on boats to Basilan.
In Basilan, four of the Filipino hostages from Dos Palmas later escaped.
While still in Lamitan, Basilan, the Abu Sayyaf took control of the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital and the St. Peter’s Church’s compound and seized 20 more people – mostly doctors, nurses and patients.
On Independence Day of 2001, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero.
Subsequent military operation against the bandit group led to the freedom of most of the hostages, although a number of them died in captivity.
In June 2002, another operation was launched to secure the freedom of the Burnhams and nurse Ediborah Yap, who was among the Lamitan hostages.
But during the crossfire, Martin Burnham and Yap were killed while Gracia Burnham sustained a bullet wound in the leg.
Tilam, more known as Abu Sabaya, was killed in a subsequent military operation off Zamboanga Sibugay that year, which was aided by US military technology.
Since then, top Abu Sayyaf leaders were either killed or captured but the bandit group continues to sow terror, albeit not in the scale of its early days.
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