MANILA (XINHUA) - Philippine troops have killed one of the alleged kidnappers of five Indonesian fishermen in the waters off Sabah in Malaysia, a military general said on Sunday (Jan 19).
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commanding general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City, said the troops also found the speed boat allegedly used by the Abu Sayyaf group in a remote island in Parang, a town in Sulu Province in the southern Philippines.
He said troops clashed with suspected Abu Sayyaf militants at around 6am local time on Saturday on the remote Sulare island in Sulu Province in the southern Philippines, resulting in the killing of a suspect.
During the fighting, Sobejana said troops destroyed the grey twin engine speed boat used by the six kidnappers. "It was positively identified by the three Indonesian fishermen who were freed by the abductors," he said.
Troops also recovered an M16 assault rifle, a bandoleer, and a cellphone at the clash site, Sobejana added.
However, Sobejana said no kidnap victim was sighted, adding he suspected that the victims are being kept somewhere on Sulare island in Parang town.
"We are focusing our rescue operation in the area," Sobejana said.
Suspected militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group initially snatched eight Indonesian fishermen in the Malaysian waters off eastern Sabah around 8pm local time on Jan 16.
Malaysian authorities said three of the eight fishermen were released and managed to return to Sabah the next day to report the incident.
The kidnapped Indonesians included the boat captain and four others.
The Abu Sayyaf group is considered the smallest but the most violent of the extremist groups in the southern Philippines. The group, which has an estimated 400 fighters, is active in the impoverished island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
The group is responsible for the series of kidnappings-for-ransom, deadly bombings, ambushes of security personnel, public beheadings, assassinations, and extortion in the Mindanao region.
The group, which has been terrorising the Philippine southern region since the 1990s, preys on foreign tourists, businessmen and fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from Indonesia and Malaysia and hides them in Philippine jungles or remote islands.
In September, three Indonesian fishermen were abducted from their boat off Sabah's east coast near the border with the Philippines.
Last Wednesday, Philippine military authorities said security forces rescued the third Indonesian fisherman weeks after authorities said he was recaptured by Abu Sayyaf militants while his two compatriots were rescued in southern Sulu Province.