Philippine police said Wednesday they had arrested a Filipino Islamic militant suspected of taking part in at least one deadly kidnapping raid on a Malaysian diving resort island.
Hundreds of members of a police special force unit were deployed to arrest Abu Sayyaf member Mobin Hailil at a remote village in the Tawi-Tawi archipelago near the Malaysian sea border on Tuesday, they said.
“When local police located him we were called in because they knew members of his clan would fight back,” Filipino police special forces director Getulio Napenas told AFP.
The suspect, a Tawi-Tawi native and a “leader” of Abu Sayyaf members based on the island, did not resist arrest but a loaded handgun and a grenade were seized from him, Napenas added.
A Filipino police statement said Hailil, also known as Kahumbo, was “involved in kidnapping and killings” on the Malaysian resort island of Mabul, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Hailil’s Tawi-Tawi home.
However, it did not provide details of his alleged crimes. National police spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Sindac could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
A policeman was killed and a second officer kidnapped by heavily armed men in the diving resort, off Borneo island, on July 12, Malaysian security officials have reported.
The Star, a Malaysian newspaper, on Wednesday quoted unnamed Malaysian intelligence sources as saying Hailil might have been responsible for that attack, as well as other kidnappings in the area.
The July shooting was the latest in a spate of kidnapping raids in the remote Malaysian state of Sabah, home to some of the world’s top diving sites, in violence that has hurt the local tourism industry.
In June, Filipino gunmen seized a Malaysian fish breeder and his Filipino worker from their farm in Sabah. They have not yet been freed.
In May a Chinese fish farm manager was abducted from his farm, while in April a female Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker were abducted. All three were released.
Authorities did not disclose if ransoms were paid of the trio, but the kidnappers had demanded money in exchange for their release.
The Abu Sayyaf is a small gang of Islamic militants blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks, but nowadays mostly survives through kidnappings for ransom and extortion.
Founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al Qaeda, it is believed to be holding several foreign hostages on the southern Philippine island of Jolo, including two European bird watchers and a Japanese man.