ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A rising leader in the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organisation is suspected to be holding marine policeman Zakiah Aleip in a mountainous jungle hideout on the island of Jolo in southern Philippines.
Filipino intelligence sources identified the sub-commander as Alhabsi Misaya, who is in his 30s. They say he is "loaded with cash" and heavily armed.
Describing Alhabsi as a drug user, a source said: "He is rising fast in the ranks of the Abu Sayyaf leadership because he has made millions of pesos in ransom money. He has huge sums."
The source said Alhabsi did not commit the abductions. It is the kidnap-for-ransom groups, such as the Mukhtadir brothers, who carried out the task, a fact both Malaysian and Philippine intelligence knew.
The kidnappers then hand over their captives, snatched from the east coast of Sabah, to Abu Sayyaf leaders like Alhabsi who then conduct the ransom negotiations through runners.
The sources said their intelligence indicated that Zakiah might be held captive around the Indanan village, a stronghold of the Alhabsi-led gunmen.
"There have been reports of sightings of 26-year-old Zakiah and the gunmen in Indanan," said an intelligence source based in Zamboanga City.
According to the sources, Alhabsi was also the captor of Shanghai tourist Gao Huayun and Filipino worker Marcy Dayawan, who were kidnapped from the Singgamata resort on April 2 and later released on May 30.
They said Alhabsi was synonymous with the holding of hostages in Jolo "because he was also responsible for several Filipino hostages, including trader Sugar Dianne Buenviaje". Buenviaje, 33, was kidnapped at gunpoint from her shop in Mapun in February.
Although the official word from both the Malaysian and Philippine governments was that no ransom was paid for the release of Gao and Dayawan, the sources said Alhabsi received payment for "board and lodging".
In the Mabul resort attack, marine policeman Abdul Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed and his colleague Zakiah was abducted by eight masked gunmen in military fatigues just before midnight on Saturday.