Key Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Indang Susukan, who was behind several Sabah kidnappings over the past decade, is believed to be dead following Manila’s military offensive in Jolo, intelligence sources say.
The sources said Indang was injured in the Feb 2 military offensive in the Patikul village area of the southern Philippines island and was taken away from the fighting zone by Moro National Liberation Front commander Annual Abdulah to another village in Talipao.
The sources said Wednesday (Feb 6) that Indang had apparently suffered complications from his injury and died in the Indanan area at around 8am on Feb 4 (Monday).
However, efforts are still under way to validate the ground intelligence claims.
Indang, who was believed to have been killed during President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out war against Abu Sayyaf two years ago but resurfaced late last year to arrange fresh kidnappings in waters off Sabah’s east coast.
The Philippines military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo came after Manila blamed the militant group for the Jan 27 suicide bombing of a church in Jolo that left at least 22 dead and more than a hundred injured.
The suicide attack was believed to have been carried out by an Indonesian couple with assistance from an Islamic State-linked group linked to the militants.
Indang’s group was responsible for the abduction of the Tung cousins from Negri Sembilan, who were kidnapped in 2012; Taiwanese Chang An Wei kidnapped in Pom Pom island in 2013; and Sarawakian Bernard Then, who was the first and only Malaysian to be beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf.
Late last year, Indang, working with Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Hatib Hajan Sawadjan, began to put together a new group of cross-border kidnappers amid talks that they were financed by a southern Philippines political warlords edgy over the newly-introduced Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), also known as Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The BOL creates a Muslim-majority sub-state in the Philippines that has replaced the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Intelligence sources said despite the military offensive, three hostages – a Malaysian and two Indonesians – taken from waters off Sabah’s Kinabatangan on Dec 5 remained safe and under guard of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen.