August 24, 2000, Harakah Daily, Malaysian general "connived in Jolo kidnap',
Malaysian radar covering Sipadan and surrounding areas was deactivated on the retired general's orders, says Philippine news report
MANILA -- A Malaysian retired general is said to be behind the kidnap-for-ransom plot by the Abu Sayyaf in Sipadan last April, according to Philippine military intelligence.
A local newspaper, Today, reported that Philippine intelligence agents had identified the former general after trying to piece together for the past four months how the bandits were able to kidnap 21 people, mainly foreign tourists, from the resort island and transport them swiftly across the waters to the Philippines.
A reliable source told the newspaper that intelligence agents discovered that the kidnapping was carried out ""with the connivance of a retired general of the Malaysian intelligence service''.
This disclosure came in the wake of newspaper reports in Kuala Lumpur that the Malaysian police had also identified several Malaysians with links to the Abu Sayyaf and that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has offered to help Manila solve the fourth-month-old hostage crisis.
According to Philippine intelligence agents, Malaysia maintained a fairly reliable radar system along its east coast facing the Tawi-Tawi and Sulu regions of the Philippines, with each radar scanning more than 2,500 sq km.
The system was primarily to monitor movements of ships in the waters between southern Philippines and the Malaysian state of Sabah, over which Manila and Kuala Lumpur have an unsettled dispute.
Intelligence sources said, however, that the radar covering Sipadan and surrounding areas was deactivated on orders of the Malaysian general to let the kidnapping succeed without detection.
This latest discovery is said to be "the missing jigsaw in the puzzle''.
In late June, Today reported that intelligence agents had found that a highly-placed Sulu public official and his relatives hatched the kidnap-for-ransom plot in connivance with a Malaysian businessman.
It was said that the businessman provided the boat for taking the hostages from Sipadan to Patikul in Sulu, and the retired general arranged to turn off the radar system.
The general is reportedly related by marriage to a high-ranking southern Philippine public official. He also has close ties with Sulu politicians in on the plot.
""There is a lot of blood relations among these plotters as well as some of the Abu Sayyaf leaders,'' said the intelligence source.
On Monday, Malaysian police said that they believed some Sabah residents helped the Abu Sayyaf rebels in the April kidnapping.
Malaysia's Internal Security and Public Order Director, Datuk Abdul Hamid Mustapha, said police were confident of arresting the culprits soon.
He said those who had helped the rebels were believed to have family ties with them.
"Some members of the public are involved in the kidnap drama and they are locals living in the village,'' he told reporters in Ipoh, Perak.