FOUR notorious drug personalities who serve as "conduits" of the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf bandits in offshore kidnappings were killed, while a soldier was wounded in a clash in Tawi-Tawi, military officials said.
The clash happened after the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) ordered all it units to strengthen intelligence monitoring after gunmen, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf bandits, seized on Friday, January 17, five tugboat crewmen near Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Brigadier General Camilo Balutan, Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi commander, said the clash happened around 5 a.m. Sunday, January 19, while the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 (MBLT-6) troops were conducting focused military operations in the village of Lakit-Lakit, Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi.
Balutan said the slain drug personalities were identified as Oyong Maulana, Datu Solon Maulana, Rashida Maulana, and Nhadz Omar, who serve as conduit of the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf bandits in conducting kidnapping operations in the tri-boundary of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Balutan said the Sapa-Sapa Municipal Government has positively identified the four as notorious drug personalities in the area.
Balutan said one soldier incurred slight injury during the clash.
He said the troops recovered from the clash site a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle, a bandolier with two long and five short magazines loaded with caliber 5.56-mm ammunitions, two heat-sealed plastic sachets of substance believed to be shabu, assorted illegal drug paraphernalia, and two cellular phones.
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, has commended the MBLT-6 troops for the "very remarkable accomplishment" in its anti-terror campaign that led to the death of the four conduits of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
Sobejana said the troops under the Westmincom are working round-the-clock to ensure the safety and security of the people in its area of operations.
The Westmincom ordered its units to strengthen intelligence monitoring to prevent the entry of gunmen tagging along the five tugboat crewmen they seized around 3 p.m. Friday near Lahad Datu, Sabah.
The gunmen intercepted the tugboat and seized five of the eight crew aboard, namely, Riswanto Bin Hayono, Edi Bin Lawalopo, La Baa, Arizal Kastamiran, and Arshad Bin Dahlan.
Three other crewmen, namely, Abdul Latif, Daeng Akbal, and Pian bin Janiru, were safely rescued by Malaysian authorities.
The gunmen, clad in black suits and masks, sped off, bringing along the five tugboat crewmen, aboard a motorboat powered by 40 horse power twin engine. (SunStar Zamboanga)