Abu Sayyaf tagged in abduction of Vietnamese sailors fall

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MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Authorities arrested on Monday four bandits implicated in the abduction of six Vietnamese crewmen of M/V Royal 16 that gunmen hijacked near Sibagu Island in Basilan last year.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodoro Sindac, director of the Police Regional Office-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the four Abu Sayyaf members – Taha Upao, Bryan Upao, Ibrahim Akhmad and Ibno Akhmad – are now detained at the Basilan Provincial Police Office in Isabela City.

They were arrested by a combined Army and police team in Sitio Suba in Barangay Ulame in Lamitan City, the capital of Basilan.

Sindac said the Basilan provincial police learned of their presence in Barangay Ulame from barangay leaders and local officials.

The four men were among some 30 Abu Sayyaf members who hijacked M/V Royal 16 near Sibagu Island some six nautical miles off mainland Basilan on November 11, 2016.

The group snatched the six Vietnamese boatmen on board and returned to Basilan riding separate pumpboats.

Two of the six foreigners, Hoang Trung Thong and Hoang Van Hai were beheaded and dumped by their captors in Limbo Tulan area in Barangay Tumahubong in Sumisip, Basilan last month.

Their compatriot, Tran Khac Dung, was also decapitated last week in Buhanginan Area in Patikul town in Sulu.

The execution of the three Vietnamese was preceded by the daring escape of captive Hoang Voh from Limbo Tulan, a hinterland in Sumisip, where he and his two compatriots, who were later killed, were held captive by the Abu Sayyaf.

The police and military are still trying to locate the two remaining Vietnamese captives – Pham Tuan and Du Trung Hien – with the help of local government units in Basilan and in Sulu.

Sindac said the arrest of the four Abu Sayyaf on Monday in Lamitan City was a product of law-enforcement cooperation between the local police and the office of Mayor Rose Furigay.

Furigay, now in her second term as mayor of Lamitan City, is the presiding chairperson of the city’s inter-agency peace and order council.

“We are also thankful to the barangay officials in Lamitan City for helping us maintain law and order in the area,” Sindac said.

He said the four detained Abu Sayyaf bandits will be prosecuted for possession of unlicensed guns and explosives and other criminal offenses.