Malaysian authorities to question Indonesians rescued from Abu Sayyaf in Jolo

Hazani-GhazaliKOTA KINABALU: Malaysia will send officers to question two Indonesians rescued by Philippine troops from their Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in Jolo, southern Philippines, on Thursday, the Eastern Sabah Security Command (EssCom) said.

The two Indonesians were abducted by the militants from a Malaysian-registered boat off the east coast of Sabah in November last year.

“We will send intelligence officers from EssCom and also the police Special Branch to gather information from the Indonesian abductees.

“We are working closely with our Philippine counterpart in this matter,” EssCom chief Hazani Ghazali told FMT today.

The rescue of the Indonesians took place after a firefight that killed five of their captors, a military commander was reported to have said.

The clash with the Abu Sayyaf group occurred in a village in the town of Talipao on Jolo island, 1,000km south of Manila.

Five soldiers were injured, Brigadier-General Cirilito Sobejana said on Thursday.

“Shortly after, the hostages were found in a vehicle in a nearby town where we mounted checks following the firefight,” he said.

The Indonesians, Saparuddin Koni and Sawal Maryam, were believed to have run away from their captors during the fighting.

The Abu Sayyaf militants is a small but violent group notorious for kidnapping for ransom and beheading some hostages.

The Islamic State-linked group poses one of the biggest internal security threats for the Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf typically holds at least two dozen hostages at a time, taking more people captive after others are executed, rescued or released when ransom is paid.

A German and two Canadians were among those beheaded since 2016 after the deadlines for ransom demands expired.

The army said the group is still holding about 18 captives on the islands of Jolo and Basilan, including a dozen foreigners from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Vietnam.

The Abu Sayyaf has fighters among a militant alliance that has occupied Marawi City in Mindanao Island for more than 100 days. Troops are still fighting to retake the city after a protracted battle that has killed more than 800 people, including 145 soldiers.

One of the Abu Sayyaf leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, has been identified as the head of Islamic State-allied militants fighting in Marawi City since May 23.