ZAMBOANGA CITY • Radulan Sahiron, the notorious leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group in Sulu, has expressed his intention to surrender due to old age.
The one-armed bandit leader is believed to be in his mid-70s.
Lieutenant-General Carlito Galvez Jr, commander of the Philippine military's Western Mindanao Command, said Sahiron has tapped elders in Sulu to relay his intention.
"The continuing operation against the Abu Sayyaf, up and down from Talipao, Patikul, Mainbubg and other parts of Sulu, this is taking a toll on part of the Abu Sayyaf, particularly on Sahiron," he said.
Citing the recent surrender of 11 Abu Sayyaf bandits from Tawi-Tawi, he said it wasn't only the lower-rank members who wanted to surrender.
"They now feel the heat of the operation, and they also feel the sincerity of the President (Rodrigo Duterte) in accepting their surrender... Sahiron is contemplating surrender because he is already old."
But he added that Sahiron's surrender was conditional on the government not turning him over to the United States or other countries: "He wants the Philippine government to handle his case."
Sahiron is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an American who was abducted in Sulu and was held captive for 23 days in 1993.
The US State Department is offering a reward of up to US$1 million (S$1.4 million) for information leading to his arrest.
Former kidnap victim Octavio Dinampo, a professor at Mindanao State University in Sulu, said Sahiron is also suffering from diabetes.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK