By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines (AA) – Philippine authorities captured Sunday a suspected member of a Daesh-affiliated group implicated in a number of kidnappings in the troubled southern island of Mindanao.
Major Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command spokesman, said in a statement that an Abu Sayyaf “spotter” -- Sehar Muloc, also known as Abner Muloc and “Commander Red Eye” -- was arrested in a pre-dawn operation in Zamboanga Sibugay province.
"The 'eye' of the Abu Sayyaf group kidnap for ransom fell into the hands of the joint elements of the military under the Joint Task Force ZAMPELAN and the police in a law enforcement operation," he said.
The suspect was reportedly captured by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the kidnapping of a former Italian priest, Rolando del Torchio, who was abducted from his retardant in Zamboanga del Sur last October and released in the island province of Sulu in April.
Tan said Muloc was directly linked to Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Idang Susukan and allegedly assisted the group in many kidnapping operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
Idang Susukan is a brother of Sulubased Abu Sayyaf leader Mujiv Susukan, and has been linked by the military to the beheading of Malaysian hostage Bernard Then after his family failed to pay a ransom in November 2015.
Tan also stressed Sunday that his command would not let up on its efforts to rescue the hostages still held by the group, including two foreigners, whom the militants have threatened to execute unless a ransom is paid by 3 p.m. Monday.
In its latest video, the Abu Sayyaf demanded a 600 million peso ($12.9 million) ransom each for Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who were kidnapped alongside Canadian John Ridsdel and Filipina Marites Flor from Samal island last September.
In April, the militants beheaded Ridsdel after a 300-million peso ransom failed to be paid.
The Philippine Star reported that the military has deployed another battalion to Sulu ahead of the deadline.
Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.