ASG’s Indonesian captive found dead in Sulu

Published October 1, 2020, 11:10 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

One of the five Indonesian kidnap victims by the militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been found dead following an armed encounter in Patikul, Sulu, the military confirmed on Friday.


Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), identified the victim as La Aba, a 35-year-old male.

The recovered body was positively identified Thursday by the Indonesian Army, police attaches, and La Aba’s family following an initial confirmation by the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu.

La Aba was among the five Indonesian fishermen who were abducted by the ASG in waters between Tambisan and Kuala Meruap in Lahad Datu, Sabah — which is close to the Philippine sea border — on January 16.

His body was recovered by elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion on Tuesday, September 29, a day after an intense firefight between the military and ASG bandits in Barangay Maligay, Patikul. It was the same encounter which killed Arsibar Sawadjaan, the alleged cousin of ASG top bomb maker Mundi Sawadjaan.

Brig. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said face recognition done on the recovered body revealed that the cadaver belongs to one of the five kidnapped Indonesians.

According to a report from the WestMinCom, the troops were scouring the enemy withdrawal route when they found the Indonesian fisherman’s cadaver about 300 meters from the encounter site.

“Based on the medical findings, no gunshot wounds were found all over the body. However, a bruise was seen on his head,” said Vinluan, indicating that La Aba was not killed amid the heavy firefight as foreign reports suggested.

This was contrary to an earlier report from WestMinCom where Vinluan was quoted as saying that “during the encounter, the KV (kidnap victim) had an opportunity to escape” and while he was running away, “he was fired upon by his abductors.”

Vinluan said the cause of La Aba’s death is yet to be determined since further investigation is still on-going.

Lt. Col. Ronaldo Mateo, spokesperson of JTF Sulu, said search and destroy operations were also carried out by the troops targeting the ASG bandits who were behind the kidnapping of La Aba’s colleagues.

“Operating troops on the ground are likewise performing rescue mission to ensure the safety of the kidnap victims,” he added.

The military is optimistic that they will be able to save the remaining four kidnap victims identified as Arsyad Dahlan, the skipper; Riswanto Hayano, Edi Lawalopo, and Syarizal Kastamiran.

Meanwhile, La Aba’s remains were transported from Sulu to Zamboanga City last September 30 for proper disposition and turnover to Indonesian authorities. (With a report from Aaron Recuenco)