MANILA -- Forces of the Philippine government are now pursuing suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who allegedly snatched a Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker in Malaysia and fled to southern Philippines.
Quoting military information, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Task Force 62 of the Western Mindanao Command will conduct support operations for the Police Regional Office - Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM) and Police Provincial Office (PPO) Tawi-Tawi.
"Initial available information obtained further stated that said abductors proceeded in vicinity of Simunul Municipality, Tawi-Tawi, eluding Malaysian authorities conducting pursuit operations," he said.
Lacierda explained that from the Singamata Resort in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia, the seven fully armed men suspected to be members of the ASG were believed to have escaped into the Philippine sea.
"[They] boarded a white colored speedboat with a stripe blue and proceeded towards Philippine Sea," he said, quoting the same military information.
He also revealed some information on the identity of the abductors.
"The abductors are believed to be of the group of Murphy Ambang Ladia, a.k.a. Haji Gulam, native of Pandami Island, Sulu, and a former MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) leader who joined the Misuari breakaway group in 2001, and was designated as the MBG Logistics and Transportation Officer. Subject later joined the ASG operating in Tawi-Tawi under ASG Binang Sahirol."
Asked if the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be tapped in the pursuit operations, Lacierda said: "Tatanungin natin sa kanila kung ano... Pero so far, ang nag-o-operate dito, tinutulungan ng WestMinCom. So we'll just ask the AFP."
The MILF just signed a peace agreement with government last week, paving the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro government in areas currently under the ARMM.
Abu Sayyaf members are supposedly hiding in Sulu, which is an ARMM area.
Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia was able to confirm from local police authorities that the identity of the Filipina kidnap victim was that of Marcelita M. Dayawan, 40, a staff member at the Singamata Resort.
Embassy officials are in touch with Ms. Dayawan's relatives and are extending consular assistance.