ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Elite combat police forces and intelligence operatives captured a mid-level Abu Sayyaf leader wanted for a string of kidnappings during a raid on his hideout in a village in Isabela City, Basilan last Thursday, authorities said.
Senior Superintendent Mario Dapilloza, Basilan police director, said kidnapping suspect Muin Hamja, who carries the aliases Abu Kudri, Sudjarapula, Usman, and Suhud Ivo Makiring, had a P600,000 bounty based on a joint resolution of the departments of National Defense and Interior and Local Government.
Hamja was cornered by joint elements of the 5th Special Action Force Battalion (SAFB) and Regional Investigation and Intelligence Division 9 led by Senior Inspector Jean Leo Bautista in his safehouse in Barangay Kumalarang, Isabela City at 2:48 a.m. Thursday.
Hamja faces five criminal cases before the Isabela City regional trial court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
After his arrest, Hamja was whisked off to the 5th SAFB camp in Lamitan City for interrogation and was then brought to the Region 9 headquarters here for further debriefing before his proper disposition by the court.
Hamja is the brother of Muhamadiya Hamja, who was twice arrested on suspicion of being an Abu Sayyaf member – first during the 2001 crackdown in Basilan but was released in 2005, and then in Manila in 2008 by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
However, Muslim human rights and religious groups raised a howl on the successive arrests of the Hamja brothers as well as the disappearance of religious leader Sheikh Bashier Mursalum last Jan. 24 in the remote village of Patalon west of this city.
Mursalum’s family and Muslim religious leaders suspect that elements of the Special Action Force were behind his disappearance. They appealed for Mursalum’s release, vowing not to press for charges against those who seized him.
In a statement, Abdulbasser Datumanong, leader of the human rights group Kawagib, said Muin Hamja was snatched, not arrested, by police and military forces and kept in a police camp.