Filipino troops kill rebel commander, rescue last hostage

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — Philippine troops killed an Abu Sayyaf rebel commander blamed for years of ransom kidnappings and yesterday rescued the last of his four Indonesian captives, the military said.

Marines wounded Amajan Sahidjuan in a gun battle on Saturday night and he later died from loss of blood on Kalupag Island in the southernmost province of Tawi Tawi. Two other militants managed to flee and dragged along the last of four Indonesian hostages but troops finally rescued him yesterday, regional military commander Lietenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr said.

On Thursday night, three Indonesian men were rescued by police who also captured one of their Abu Sayyaf captors along the shores of South Ubian town in Tawi Tawi.

The military said the Abu Sayyaf militants led by Sahidjuan were fleeing assaults in nearby Sulu province when their speedboat was lashed by huge waves and overturned off Tawi Tawi. A military officer said the militants were attempting to cross the sea border to Tambisan Island in neighbouring Malaysia’s Sabah state to release the captives in exchange for a ransom of at least PHP5 million, but the Philippine military got wind of the plan and launched covert assaults.

The officer, who has a keen knowledge of anti-Abu Sayyaf operations, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.

Vinluan said the rescue of the Indonesian men, the last known hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf, would allow government forces to finish off the ransom-seeking rebels.

“It will just be relentless in a massive and focussed military operation because, now, we would not worry about kidnap victims getting hit,” Vinluan told reporters by telephone.

Vinluan said there were about 80 Abu Sayyaf gunmen left in Sulu and outlying island provinces. One of their remaining elderly leaders, Radulan Sahiron, has fallen ill and was wounded in a recent offensive in Sulu, he said.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya is seen with his band of armed extremists. PHOTO: AP