Eight alleged Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leaders and their supporters were arrested by Malaysian troops early Saturday at Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna, Beaufort, Sabah, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Monday.
Joint Task Force Sulu commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales said in a statement that ASG sub-leaders Sansibar Bensio and Mabar Binda were arrested by troops from Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Southern Command (ESSCOM).
They were allegedly behind the kidnapping of several local and foreign nationals in the Philippines.
“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,” said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief.
Six other members of the kidnap-for-ransom group apprehended were identified as Muayyar Binda, a certain Sansis, and a certain Firdaus, all under sub-leader Mabar Binda; ASG member Alim Sukarno under ASG sub-leader Sansibar Bensio; ASG member Lugah Sanchez under late ASGSL Juhurim Hussein (Patikul based); and ASG member Bonijar Samsula under late ASG sub-leader Juhurim Hussein.
“These ASG personalities have moved to Sabah around March this year. We have been closely monitoring the activities of this Eastern Sulu kidnap-for-ransom group as it is highly possible that they intend to make Sabah their staging point for their kidnapping activities,” the PH military said.
“They know that it will be very difficult for them to launch atrocities in Sulu due to the persistent military operations in the area,” they added.
The task force said the ASG leader led the kidnapping of several foreigners.
“To note, Bensio was part of the KFRG who took foreign nationals Lorenzo Vinciguerra (Swiss), Elwold Horn (Dutch), Samiun Bin Maneu, Maharudin Bin Lunani, and Muhammad Farhan (Indonesians)and Filipinos Ronnie Sandagon, Jerel T Pepito, Eddie Reubal, Marcial España, Arvin Sabaduquia, Rufino Bustillo, Joseph Bani, Hajan Terong, Joshua Bani and Michelle Tolentino Panes,” the military said.
Binda, along with his father, slain ASG sub-leader Hatib Munap Binda, was also with Bensio’s group in the kidnapping of the Indonesians, the military added.
“Bensio and Binda have been involved in armed clashes with the military in the second district of Sulu,” they said.
According to 4th Marine Brigade Commander Col. Hernanie Songano, focused military operations forced the bandits to flee to Sabah, where they established an ASG cell.