Abu Sayyaf leader in Sabah abduction killed in Philippines shootout

The popular Ocean King Seafood Restaurant by the Sandakan seafront, where two staff members were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels on May 14, 2015. The Philippine military said Mindas Muktader, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group tagged
The popular Ocean King Seafood Restaurant by the Sandakan seafront, where two staff members were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels on May 14, 2015. The Philippine military said Mindas Muktader, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group tagged in the abduction, was killed on Wednesday, May 20, in a shootout. -- PHOTO: THE STAR
Malaysian Bernard Then, a Sarawakian electrical consultant working in Cambodia, was abducted by gunmen believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group. The gunmen stormed into the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant, a seaside restaurant near Sandak
Malaysian Bernard Then, a Sarawakian electrical consultant working in Cambodia, was abducted by gunmen believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group. The gunmen stormed into the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant, a seaside restaurant near Sandakan, in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah, and abducted its manager and Mr Then. -- PHOTO: SINCHEW 
Malaysian restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun was abducted by gunmen believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group. The gunmen stormed into the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant, a seaside restaurant near Sandakan, in Malaysia’s eastern state of
Malaysian restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun was abducted by gunmen believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militant group. The gunmen stormed into the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant, a seaside restaurant near Sandakan, in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah, and abducted Ms Thien and a customer. -- PHOTO: SINCHEW 

MANILA - A leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group tagged in the abduction of two Malaysians from Sandakan in Malaysia's Sabah state was killed on Wednesday evening, the Philippine military has reported.

Mindas Muktader was killed during a shootout with security officials at a street in Jolo province, an Abu Sayyaf stronghold 1,400km south of the capital Manila, according to a spot report filed by Colonel Alan Arrojado of Joint Task Group Sulu.

Muktader and his brother, Kadafy, were said to have led a cross-border Abu Sayyaf group that abducted on May 14 Ocean King Seafood Restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, an engineer.

The hostages were reportedly taken to Jolo.

Their relatives were said to have been contacted by the Abu Sayyaf, which was demanding a huge ransom.

The military report said the Muktader brothers were part of a larger group of Abu Sayyaf bandits under Idang Susukan, Alhabsy Misaya, Anga Adji and Yasser Igasan.

It linked Muktader to a series of kidnappings in Sabah, including one incident that involved Taiwanese tourist Evelyn Chang.

Ms Chang was abducted as she and her husband, Hsu Li-min, were on holiday in Pom Pom Island in 2013. He husband was killed, and Ms Chang was held by the Abu Sayyaf for two months before she was released in a remote town in Jolo.

Muktader was also said to be part of the group that abducted Ms Gao Huayun, a Chinese, and a Filipino resort worker, Ms Marcy Dayawan, in April last year from the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort in Semporna town.

Ms Gao and Ms Dayawan were released two months later after Ms Gao's family reportedly paid a ransom of about 300 million pesos (S$9 million).

The Abu Sayyaf was formed by disgruntled Moro Islamic fighters in 1991, with Al-Qaeda funding. However, it did not gain prominence till May 2000, when it attacked a dive resort in Sipadan, Malaysia, taking 21 hostages.

Over the years, US-backed military campaigns had managed to decimate the group's leadership.

In recent years, however, it has managed to regain some of its strength from ransoms it managed to raise from traders it kidnapped in Sabah and in Mindanao.

A security analyst said the ransoms sometimes involve not just cash but also firearms, ammunitions and supplies.

rdancel@sph.com.sg