ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Government forces running after kidnappers of two Chinese nationals have captured two Abu Sayyaf bandits in the island province of Basilan, the military reported Friday.

The bandits were captured following a clash with members of the Army's 32nd Infantry Battalion around 4:55 p.m. Thursday in the village of Cabengbeng, Sumisip town.

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The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) did not release the identities of the captured bandits, except in saying they are followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Whymz Wakil.

Wakil, according to reports, is a former worker of Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Development Cooperative Inc. (Tarbci).

The troops also recovered an M-79 grenade launcher from the two bandits, who were placed under tactical interrogation following their arrest.

Wesmincom officials said the troops had been pursuing members of the Abu Sayyaf group who seized two Chinese nationals in the evening of November 10 from a plywood factory in Maluso town.

Still being held captive are Zi Shun Lu alias Oscar Lu, 51, and Bo Shung Tan alias Michael Tan, 27, both from Guanzhou Province, mainland China. They were kidnapped together with Marquez Singson, 36.

The Abu Sayyafs beheaded Singson after the plywood factory owner failed to pay the initial P1.5-million ransom demand.

Rescue operations were launched after all peaceful means exhausted by the Crisis Management Committee yielded negative results.

Basilan Governor Jum Akbar favors the rescue operations but urged the troops to take into consideration the safety of the hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf has been considered a terrorist group notorious for deadly bombings, beheadings and kidnappings. It has been crippled by US-backed military offensives but continues to be a threat in the country’s volatile south.

Recently, the Abu Sayyaf was tagged as responsible for the kidnapping of two Malaysian-Chinese businessmen off Sabah, Malaysia.

Wesmincom commander Benjamin Dolorfino, however, said the military is still verifying the report. (Bong Garcia/Sunnex)