ZAMBOANGA CITY -- A team of military and police operatives arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit involved in the Sipadan kidnapping almost 19 years ago, officials said Tuesday.
Lt. Col. Don Templonuevo, the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion commander, identified the arrested ASG member as Maldimar Mahmor, said to be a liaison officer and facilitator of the group's kidnapping activities in the Zamboanga provinces.
Templonuevo said Mahmor was arrested through a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition around 1 a.m. Monday in Barangay Magdaup, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
Templonuevo said Mahmor is a follower of ASG sub-leader Idang Susukan whose group was also involved in the April 6, 2015 kidnapping of then-Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay, and March 3, 2017 kidnapping of Jose Duterte and his wife, Jessica, in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.
ASG gunmen abducted 21 people, including resort workers and 10 European tourists, on April 23, 2000 from a diving resort in Sipadan Island, Sabah, a Malaysian state which the Philippines has a dormant claim.
The ASG bandits herded the victims to Sulu and were later released in batches following ransom payments.
Recovered from Mahmor’s possession were a .38-caliber revolver, a grenade, an M-16 magazine with ammunition, and one rocket-propelled grenade ammunition.
“The apprehension of Mahmor is a big loss for the ASG because it will disrupt their illegal activities, particularly kidnapping, in our area of operation,” said Col. Bagnus Gaerlan Jr., the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade commander, who has operational jurisdiction over Zamboanga Sibugay.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, the Army’s 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan (the Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao Provinces) commander, has commended the efforts of the troops that led to the arrest of Mahmor.
“The Tabak Troopers in collaboration with the PNP (Philippine National Police) will intensify joint law enforcement operation to protect the people and communities against terrorists,” Ancan said.
“We also urge the stakeholders and local populace to be more vigilant and report to the government forces any suspicious group or individuals in order to end the acts of terror and sustain the peace and development efforts of the government,” Ancan added.