ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — An Abu Sayyaf member, who was involved in the kidnapping of 21 tourists from Malaysia 20 years ago, surrendered voluntarily to the marines in Tawi-Tawi, a senior military commander said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said Barri Lakibol, also known for his aliases "Barley Badeng", "Otoh Itom" and "Robin", 44, a native of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, yielded Wednesday afternoon with his M14 rifle to the Marine Battalion Landing Team 12 (MBLT) headquarters in Barangay Nalil in the same town.
Vinluan said the surrender of Lakibol was only made public Friday as he was placed under tactical debriefing for information that may lead to his other companions.
“Based on our records, Lakibol was involved in the kidnapping of 21 hostages including European nationals and other foreigners at Sipadan Island in April 2000,” Vinluan said.
It will be recalled that Lakibol was then 24 years old when the Abu Sayyaf group led by Ghalib Andang, alias "Commander Robot", seized the 21 tourists, including 10 European and Middle East tourists, nine Malaysian and two Filipinos resort workers in April 2000 from Sipadan dive resort in Sabah and brought the captives in Sulu in exchange for hefty ransom in dollars.
According to Vinluan, Lakibol claimed that the Abu Sayyaf group of Commander Robot was also behind the kidnapping of evangelist Wilde Almeda of Jesus Miracle Crusade and 12 other members when they attempted to conduct pray-over on the victims and negotiate for the safe release of the victims.
The victims were freed in batches during the five-month of captivity in the jungle of Sulu following payment of ransom, except for Filipino dive instructor Roland Ullah who was set free three years later.
Lt. Col. Henry Espinosa, commanding officer of MBLT 12, said Lakibol revealed that he was recruited by Commander Robot as a member of the Abu Sayyaf Kidnap-for-ransom group (KFRG) sometime in January 2000.
“He identified himself as an ASG-KFRG member who was recruited by Sulu-based senior leader Galib Andang,” Espinosa added.
During the debriefing, Lakibol claimed he left the group in 2006 due to the intensified offensives launched by the military which resulted in the neutralization of prominent personalities, including Andang, Mujib Susukan, Nadzmie Saabtullah, alias "Global" in Sulu.
Col. Arturo Rojas, commander of the Joint Task Force Taw-Tawi (JTFT), said Lakibol will be turned over to the local government unit of Bongao to assess for his possible enrollment into the government’s reintegration program.
“We are looking forward to more enemy surrenders and we encourage them to do so as it is best that they peacefully return to the mainstream society rather than engage in gunfights," according to Rojas.
Vinluan directed the security forces in southern Philippines to intensify the focused military operation to prevent the Abu Sayyaf group and its foreign-based cohorts from launching terror attacks during the holidays.