Abu Sayyaf commander linked to beheadings surrenders

Manila: A leading terror suspect who has been linked to beheadings of hostages, including two Canadians and a Malaysian, has surrendered after being wounded in battle, officials said on Friday.

National police chief General Archie Gamboa said Abu Sayyaf commander Anduljihad Susukan gave up after negotiations with police in southern Davao city, where he was served warrants for at least 23 cases of murder, six for attempted murder and five for kidnapping.

Abu Sayyaf commander Anduljihad Susukan at the Davao City Police Station in Davao province, southern Philippines on Thursday.Credit:AP

He is the highest-ranking commander of the small but brutal Abu Sayyaf group to be taken into custody so far this year. The military has been waging a years-long offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organisation for past bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. Many of its gunmen, mostly peasants and desperately poor villagers, have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.

Security officials have blamed Susukan and his men for playing a role in cross-border kidnappings of tourists and other victims from the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, including a Malaysian citizen, who was beheaded by the militants in 2015 in their jungle base in southern Sulu province on the day Malaysia's then-prime minister Najib Razak arrived in Manila to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Susukan also helped finance the kidnappings in the south of two Canadian men, who were separately beheaded in Sulu in 2016 after the militants failed to get a huge ransom.

Philippine soldiers carry bodies towards a military helicopter. A long-held Dutch hostage was shot and killed by his Abu Sayyaf captors when he tried to escape during a gun battle in southern Philippines in 2019.Credit:Sulu/AP

Another Abu Sayyaf militant, Ben Yadah, murdered the two Canadians and remains at large, a military officer said. The group also beheaded a Dutch citizen last year.

Susukan surrendered to a Muslim rebel chief after the accidental explosion of his M203 rifle grenade in a gun battle with troops in Sulu severed his left arm. Military officials had believed he was killed but later learnt he was in the custody of Nur Misuari, who leads an armed group which signed a 1996 peace deal with the government.

Misuari flew from Jolo to Davao city on a private plane with a few companions that included Susukan on Sunday, sparking speculation he may be planning to present the terror suspect to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has been staying in his hometown in Davao city, where Misuari also has a home. Although the President has appointed Misuari as a special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Muslim rebel chief has not been clearly authorised to hold talks with suspected terrorists.

Under a murky arrangement, Misuari and his rebel force have been allowed to keep their weapons in Sulu and outlying provinces under the 1996 Muslim autonomy deal in the south, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation.


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