PETALING JAYA: A key operative who provided militant groups in the southern Philippines with marine transport and logistics to conduct kidnappings and terrorist activities in Sabah has been captured.
Saidul Idul, who was among a list of prime suspects wanted by Malaysia for militancy, was arrested in rural Sipangkot district in the Philippines’ southernmost island of Sitangkai last Saturday.
The island is just 40km from the eastern coast of Sabah’s Lahad Datu where Sulu rebels made a violent incursion in early 2013, and about 70km from Semporna island which has seen several ransom kidnappings by militants over the last two decades.
Capt Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson for the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command was quoted by Manila-based The Daily Tribune as confirming the arrest.
She said Saidul, who was named as Sahidul Bandhala Jikiri, was caught by the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 (MBLT10) under the Tawi Tawi Joint Task Force headed by Brig Gen Custodio Parcon.
Saidul had provided speed boats and other logistics used by the Abu Sayyaf extremist outfit for abduction activities around Sabah as well as Tawi-Tawi which comes under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
According to The Daily Tribune, Saidul had confessed to participating in kidnappings in Sabah. He also admitted that some of the ransom money was used to fund terror activities and piracy in the seas around the Philippines and Malaysia.
He is also said to be affiliated with other Abu Sayyaf groups, such as the Raden Abu and Alden Bagade, having been their errand man to procure speedboats and other requirements to support the kidnapping activities.
The international Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), which provides updated data on terrorism, international relations and criminal justice, confirmed the arrest on May 16.
Saidul reportedly uses other aliases, including Idul, Jamiri Saidu and Jikiri Saidul.
Meanwhile, Parcon said Saidul had confessed to be an Abu Sayyaf member involved in kidnappings and ransom under sub-leaders Idang Susukan and Sihata Latip, whose groups are based in Sulu province.
“Jikiri (Saidul) revealed that the sub-leaders will pay him for every errand they ask him to do for them,” Parcon was quoted as saying.
“He also gets a part of the money every time the family of kidnap victims pays ransom in exchange for their release,” he added.
Saidul disclosed that he is often contacted by other Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders like Abraham Hamid, Salip Susung, Nikson Muktadil and Brown Muktadil when devising plans for kidnapping and cross-border seajacking, targeting mostly foreign vessels and individuals, the report said.
Nikson and Brown, respectively also known as Nelson and Braun, were among the six notorious Muktadil brothers involved in human trafficking and abduction operations.
Both were killed by the Philippines military in a shoot-out during a raid in Sulu last September.
Parcon said Saidul had been detected following a tip-off, and told to show up for an interview in which he confessed to being active with Abu Sayyaf.
On May 16, Sabah police said they were investigating a report over the sighting of five armed Filipino men in camouflage attire at a plantation in Lahad Datu. They had claimed they were among 37 people who had landed in the state to save the people.
On Feb 9, 2013, a group of Filipino militants, following Agbimuddin Kiram, who claimed himself as “crown prince of the Sulu Sultanate”, entered by boat in stages at Felda Sahabat 17, Kampong Tanduo, Lahad Datu.
The area turned into a battlefield between the country’s security forces and the Sulu invaders who claimed they wanted to regain power over Sabah on behalf of the Sulu royalty.
The incident resulted in the death of 63 militants and 10 Malaysian security forces.