by Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY — Authorities have arrested four suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits implicated in the abduction of six and eventual beheading of three Vietnamese crewmen of M/V Royal 16 hijacked near Sibagu Island in Basilan last year.
Chief Supt. Reuben Theodoro Sindac, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the four suspects identified as Taha Upao, Bryan Upao, Ibrahim Akhmad, and Ibno Akhmad were arrested Monday and are now detained at the Basilan Provincial Police Office in Isabela City.
Combined army and police troops cornered the four suspects at Sitio Suba in Barangay Ulame in Lamitan City, the capital of Basilan, it was learned.
Sindac said concerned leaders and elected officials had provided information leading to the capture of the suspects.
The four men are allegedly among 30 Abu Sayyaf bandits who hijacked M/V Royal 16 near Sibagu Island, six nautical miles off mainland Basilan on Nov. 11, 2016.
Two of the six kidnapped foreigners named as Hoang Trung Thong and Hoang Van Hai were beheaded and their cadavers were dumped by their captors in Limbo Tulan area in Barangay Tumahubong in Sumisip, Basilan last month.
Another captive, Tran Khac Dung, was also decapitated last week in Buhanginan area in Patikul town in Sulu.
The execution of the three Vietnamese followed by the daring escape of captive Hoang Voh from Limbo Tulan, a hinterland in Sumisip, where he and his slain two compatriots were held captive by the Abu Sayyaf.
Sindac said security forces were still searching for the two remaining Vietnamese captives — Pham Tuan and Du Trung Hien — with the help of local government units in Basilan and in Sulu.
He said the arrest of the four Abu Sayyaf on Monday in Lamitan City was a product of law enforcement cooperation between the local police and the office of Mayor Rose Furigay.
He said the four detained Abu Sayyaf bandits would be prosecuted for possession of unlicensed guns and explosives and other criminal offenses.
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