SANDAKAN (17 Julai) – At the mention of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Sabahans will still squirm, even after 17 years when they first made their name with their Sipadan Island kidnapping.
One of the Sipadan kidnappers has been arrested by Philippine security forces for his involvement in the kidnap of 21 people, mostly foreigners from the diving haven island.
Abdul Mubin Salahuddin Kudalat was arrested during a joint operation by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and military along the old Guiwan highway near Callejon Drive 3.4 KM from city centre about 10:45pm on Thursday.
Zamboanga City PNP Officer-in-Charge Diomarie Albarico said a sling bag that contained a grenade was seized from Abdulmubin Salahuddin who worked as a security guard in a local shopping mall.
Albarcio said based on investigation, Salahuddin was involved in the Sipadan kidnapping where nine Malaysians, 10 Europeans and two Filipino resort staff from Sipadan were taken hostage on April 23, 2000.
Albarico said Salahuddin is believed to be supplying firearms and ammunition to the Abu Sayyaf group based in Sulu.
He said Salahuddin managed to work as a security guard in one of the local agencies, since the suspect was able to acquire a license and pertinent documents, like clearances.
Salahuddin, who was detained, denied being an ASG member, citing he has no derogatory record as shown by the clearances issued to him.
The Sipadan kidnapping saw up to six ASG gunmen taking the hostages to their base in Jolo Island in Sulu. The incident was the first kidnapping staged by the ASG outside the Philippines.
During the hostage taking, the ASG issued various demands for the release of several prisoners, including 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, USD2.4 million and a complete withdrawal of government troops from the area around Jolo where the hostages were being held.
The Philippine Army launched a major offensive on 16 September 2000, rescuing all the remaining hostages, except Filipino dive instructor Roland Ullah. Ullah was eventually freed in 2003.