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SULU – A former fighter of the Indonesian militant group, Jemaah Islamiya, said the deadly twin bombings on a cathedral in the southern Filipino town of Jolo was largely funded by ransom paid to free an Indonesian hostage of the pro-ISIS Abu Sayyaf group.

Abdullah Sandakan, who is based in Sabah, told BenarNews that the attack on the church on January 27 was planned by the Abu Sayyaf.

“This attack was on their calendar. This is done by the pro-Islamic State faction of ASG and they have been planning it for quite some time. They were just waiting for the ransom money, which they used for the bombing. Twelve days is more than enough time for them to source and buy the explosives, prepare their people to carry out the bombing,” he said.

The ex-JI militant was referring to Indonesian fishing boat captain Samsul Sanguni, who was released by the Abu Sayyaf on January 15 in Sulu province.

Sanguni along with another Indonesian fisherman, Usman Yusuf, were kidnapped at sea near Gaya Island in Sabah’s Semporna town and brought to Sulu. The 35-year old Yusuf was freed in December in Bual village in the town of Luuk. The release of Yusuf came after the Chief of the Indonesian Consul-General’s Office in Sabah, Sulistijo Djati Ismojo, appealed to Malaysia to resolve the kidnapping of its citizens.

Malaysian media reported that the Abu Sayyaf had demanded P20 million from Sanguni’s employer and militants threatened to kill him if ransom is not paid. In a video sent by militants to his family, Sanguni appealed to his employer to save him from death. The clip shows Sanguni – both hands tied behind his back – inside a freshly dug hole in a forested area and guarded by heavily armed militants as he cried and pleaded for help.

Sandakan said part of the ransom money paid to the Abu Sayyaf was also used to pay villagers who sheltered the militants. “The money is given to the villagers for sheltering them and also to win them over,” he said, warning that more kidnappings would take place around the waters of eastern Sabah and the Sulu Sea to raise funds for terror attacks and other activities.

“The kidnappings will not stop and neither will the bombings. The success of the Jolo bombing may even encourage them to try to carry out bombings in Manila,” he warned.

Jemaah Islamiya, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, was blamed for Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack, the Bali bombings that killed 202 people 17 years ago.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the cathedral attack, saying, two suicide bombers carried out the deadly mission. This was also confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who cited military and other intelligence reports. He said the bombers were a man and woman, probably Indonesian couple. Other reports suggested the bombers were a Yemeni couple.

In September last year, the Abu Sayyaf released four Indonesian hostages to Nur Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and his wife Tarhata, and a former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zein.

But despite the anti-terror campaign in Sabah, Abu Sayyaf militants still managed to kidnap three more Indonesian fishing crew members off Sabah and had been taken to Sulu, Malaysian media reported.

It said the trio – Heri Ardiansyah, 19; Jari Abdullah, and Hariadin, 45, were working for a fishing company in Sandakan town and had been seized by 7 gunmen on the night of December 5 near Pegasus Reef – an area where four armed men also attacked a tugboat two days later and wounded an Indonesian crew in what police said was a failed abduction.

Sabah police, citing intelligence sources, said identified the kidnappers as Abu Sayyaf commanders Al Mujir Yadah and Hajan Sawadjaan, who teamed up with another militant commander, Indang Susukan. The group was tagged as behind the spate of ransom kidnappings in Sabah waters and attacks on fishing boats there.

The militants have been targeting Indonesian fishermen because their employers and Jakarta are paying ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf which it uses to purchase weapons, recruit members and to finance kidnappings and terror attacks in the country.   The Abu Sayyaf is still holding nearly a dozen foreign and local hostages in the restive region. (BenarNews. Additional report from Mindanao Examiner.)


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