ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 05, 2008) – Security forces captured a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf group implicated in the 2001 kidnapping of three US citizens in the Philippines, officials said on Friday.
Officials said government agents, backed by soldiers and policemen, captured Tuatin Anahalul alias Abu Basilan in a raid on an Abu Sayyaf hideout Thursday afternoon on the island of Margo sa Tubig in Zamboanga del Sur province.
“The terrorist leader is still being interrogated. He is one of those involved in the Dos Palmas kidnapping and Lamitan siege,” Army Major Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.
Batara was referring to the Abu Sayyaf raid on the posh Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province in central Philippines where militants snatched Kansas missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Californian Guillermo Sobero and 17 Filipino holidaymakers and brought them by boat to Basilan island.
And the Abu Sayyaf raid on Lamitan town in Basilan where the militants took over a private hospital and held more than 100 people and escaping four days later after battling government soldiers.
He said informants tipped off the military about the presence of Anahalul, who is long wanted by authorities.
“Civilian informants provided vital intelligence about the subject and his capture is a good start this year in our anti-terrorism campaign. We will not relent in our operation to track down and arrest terrorists and this is the order of General Nelson Allaga,” Batara said.
Allaga is the chief of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City. Last month, security forces also raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Zamboanga City and captured two militants also implicated in the Dos Palmas kidnapping.
In November, government soldiers nabbed Abu Sayyaf militant, Teteng Mandangan, said to be involved also in the same kidnappings in the southern Tawi-Tawi province.
The Abu Sayyaf beheaded Sobero in Basilan province a month after the kidnapping while Martin Burnham was shot and killed the next year in a US-led military rescue operation in nearby Zamboanga del Norte province.
Gracia Burnham was rescued by Filipino troops, but she was also wounded. Some of the Filipino hostages were also killed and wounded by the Abu Sayyaf during their captivity.
The Burnham couple was celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary party on May 27, 2001 at Dos Palmas when the Abu Sayyaf attacked the resort. Printed Lingerie
Since her rescue, Gracia Burnham has written two books, ‘In the Presence of My Enemies’ and ‘To Fly Again’ and now works as a popular church speaker. (Mindanao Examiner)