An Abu Sayyaf member wanted for burning 25 houses and tagged in several high-profile kidnapping incidents was arrested during an operation in Omar, Sulu, police reported.
Arrested was Berhamin Ellih alias Berhamin Hamad, a “hard-core” follower of late Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alhabsi Misaya, according to a report from the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group.
Members of the AKG, backed by other police units and the Marines, carried out the operation around 1 a.m. Sunday, in Sitio Tando Gusuh in the island-barangay of Capual.
Operatives served an arrest warrant issued by the court in Jolo against Ellih for 25 counts of arson, the report said.
The case stemmed from the burning of the same number of houses in Sitio Bait-Bait, Brgy. Lahing-Lahing, in Omar on August 4, 2016, the AKG said.
It said Ellih was also involved in the kidnapping of five Indonesians aboard a Malaysian fishing boat in waters off Sabah in January 2020.
One of the five Indonesians was killed in a clash between their Abu Sayyaf captors and government forces later that year, while the rest were rescued separately in Tawi-Tawi last month.
The rescue operations in Tawi-Tawi was carried out after the boat that the Abu Sayyaf was using to transfer the Indonesians from Sulu capsized amid bad weather.
Two Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders who survived the incident were captured.
The AKG said those sub-leaders, Suhud Salasim alias “Ben Wagas” and Injimar Mangkabong, were involved in several other kidnappings where Ellih may have also had a hand in.
Those include the abduction of six Jehovah’s Witnesses in August 2002 in Patikul, where two of the victims were beheaded; the abduction of a Dutch national and a Swiss national in Tawi-Tawi in February 2012; and the kidnapping of two Canadians, a Norwegian, and a Filipina in Samal Island, Davao del Norte, in September 2015.
Ellih, according to the AKG, has been with the Abu Sayyaf since the April 2000 kidnappings at the resort island of Sipadan, Malaysia.
He served as the Abu Sayyaf’s “spotter” of kidnap victims and boat operator during that incident, the AKG said. (John Roson)