Abu Sayyaf Killed Indonesian Hostage but not by Gunshot, Philippine General Says

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
2020-10-02
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201002-PH-hostage-620.jpg Members of the Joint Task Force Sulu secure an area after an encounter with Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu province, southern Philippines, May 31, 2019.
Joint Task Force Sulu via AP

An Indonesian captive who was executed by Abu Sayyaf militants on southern Jolo Island was not killed by gunfire, the Philippine military said Friday, correcting its own report from a day earlier.

The body of victim La Baa bore a head wound but the cause of death was not determined during an autopsy, authorities said. The 32-year-old fisherman was among five Indonesian sailors kidnapped off eastern Malaysia’s Sabah state in January.

The man’s family identified his body on Thursday after Philippine authorities turned it over to Indonesian officials in Zamboanga city. Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said results of a post-mortem indicated that the victim had no bullet wounds.

“He was not shot as it turns out, but had sustained an injury to the head caused by a blunt object which could have possibly caused his death,” Vinluan told BenarNews. “What is still correct, however, is that he was executed as his Abu Sayyaf captors fought with the military.”

“The cause of death is yet to be determined,” Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.

On Thursday, military officials in Jolo said La Baa’s captors shot him as he tried to escape a firefight in a remote village in Patikul municipality earlier in the week.

Troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion recovered La Baa’s remains hours after engaging in a firefight on Monday with 40 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members and killing its sub-leader Arsibar Sawadjaan, a bomb maker and cousin of Mundi Sawadjaan, officials said. Authorities identified Mundi Sawadjaan as mastermind of twin suicide bombings that killed 15 people on Jolo on Aug. 24 and were carried out by female bombers.

La Baa and his four fellow Indonesian fishermen were abducted at sea off an island in Sabah, a state in nearby Malaysian Borneo, on Jan. 16 and taken to the nearby Sulu Islands in the southern Philippines.

The four other Indonesians are believed to be held by ASG, an Islamic State-linked group based in the southern Philippines and notorious for carrying out kidnappings.

Meanwhile, the military said that troops in Jolo were on the trail of a group led by Mundi Sawadjaan, who was believed to be traveling with two Indonesians being groomed as suicide bombers.

Mundi is the nephew of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the head of the Philippine branch of the Islamic State (IS). Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan took over the IS affiliate following the death of Isnilon Hapilon in October 2017. Hapilon was killed by security forces toward the end of a five-month battle between government forces and IS-linked militants who had seized the southern city of Marawi in May of that year.

“In as much as we want to finish the ASG the soonest possible time, the safety of the kidnap victims during operations is our equally significant concern,” said Brig. Gen. William Gonzales, the leader of government forces in Sulu.

“We abide by rules of engagement during armed encounters to safely rescue the KVs (kidnap victims) and destroy the ASG,” he said.

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