Philippine troops rescue Malaysian taken by militants off eastern Sabah

MANILA - Philippine security forces have rescued a Malaysian seized by Islamist militants four months ago along with two Indonesians off eastern Sabah.

The military's Western Mindanao Command disclosed on Friday (April 5) that Mr Jari bin Abdullah, 24, was rescued following a clash at around 4pm on Thursday (April 4) between a Marine unit and the militants holding him on Simisa island, in the southern province of Sulu. Mr Jari was left for dead after his captors deliberately shot him while trying to escape.

Brigadier General Divino Rey Pabayo, head of Joint Task Force Sulu, said troops found Mr Jari lying along a trail his captors took when they fled.

He was airlifted to Jolo town, Sulu's capital, and then transferred to a hospital in Zamboanga city.

"The act of shooting the kidnap victim is indicative of the Abu Sayyaf's hopelessness and (desperation), as the militants are now surrounded by our pursuing troops," said Brig-Gen Pabayo.

Mr Jari, who is said to be in critical condition, and two Indonesians were taken by militants believed to be from the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group from their fishing trawler in waters off eastern Sabah, near the Philippines' Tawi-Tawi island chain on Dec 5 (2018).

The Indonesians - Mr Heri Ardiansyah, 19, and Mr Hariadan, 45 - were later seen in a video begging for their lives. One of the men had a knife held to his neck.

It could not be ascertained what happened to the Indonesians after the firefight.

The video surfaced several days after the captors called Mr Jari's wife, Ms Nadin Junianti Abdullah, saying that no Malaysian authorities or negotiators had contacted them to secure her husband's release.

The small but brutal Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to the Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Though the group officially has a separatist, Islamist agenda, it has capitalised on decades of instability in the war-torn southern island of Mindanao to generate tens of millions of dollars from piracy and ransom payments.

Since it turned kidnapping into a lucrative trade, the group has already beheaded an American, a Malaysian, two Canadians and a German.

A faction led by Isnilon Hapilon, once regarded as ISIS' anointed "emir" in South-east Asia, took part in the assault on the southern Islamic city of Marawi in May 2017.

Hapilon's fighters, along with those from Marawi's prominent Maute clan and extremists from abroad, stormed and took control of a quarter of Marawi for five months, in what became the Philippines' biggest security crisis in years.

Hapilon was killed as the Marawi war drew to a close. But other Abu Sayyaf factions that did not participate in the Marawi siege have remained active in Sulu and in their other stronghold, Jolo province.

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