By Jeffrey Damicog
Government authorities have arrested in Taguig City a member of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group (ASG) who has been wanted since 2001 for the kidnapping and killing of plantation workers in Basilan.
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Spokespersons Auralyn Pascual identified the suspected ASG member as Salahim Dawani, who is also known as Abu Moadz.
Dawani was arrested last March 6 by joint elements of the NBI and the Philippine National Police (PNP) who served an arrest warrant against him in Barangay Maharlika, Taguig City where he has been in hiding.
“The arrest warrant is by virtue of the cases that he committed some years back on serious illegal detention and kidnapping,” said Pascual.
Dawani is among those charged before the Basilan Regional Trial Court (RTC) which issued the arrest warrant over the multiple counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention concerning the 2001 abduction of workers from the Golden Harvest Plantation in Tairan, Lantawan Basilan.
Pascual said witnesses identified him as the one resposible for beheading two Golden Harvest workers identified as Primitivo Falcasantos and Crisanto Suela.
“He also was the one who torched the plantation chapel…pati po tinorch rin niya ang bahay ng manager ng plantation (he also torched the house of the plantation manager),” she added.
Apart from the kidnapping and killing of the plantation workers, NBI Counterrorism Division Chief Raoul Manguerra said Dawani has also been identified in the 2002 kidnapping of six members of Jehova’s Witness in Patikul Sulu.
“This morning he was identified by another government witness in another kidnapping case (2002 kidnapping),” he said.
“We are going to file another criminal complaint against him,” said Manguerra as he referred to the 2002 kidnapping.
Manguerra revealed they found out the whereabouts of the suspect based on the tip the NBI received.
However, he noted that it took two months of surveillance operation before authorities decided to arrest the suspect.
“Once we got his picture we had to show it to the government witnesses,” he said.
“We didn’t want to be mistaken because we all know they use multiple identities,” he added.
Pascual noted Dawani was also involved in other kidnapping cases.
She indicated that the suspect was also involved in the 2001 kidnapping incident in Dos Palmas resort in Palawan where a number of hostages were taken, including American couple Gracia and Martin Burnham.
Among those who were taken, there were five who were killed including Martin and American Guillermo Sobero.
Dawani was also identified among the ASG involved in the 2000 kidnapping incident at a diving resort in Sabah, Malaysia.