Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya, right foreground, is seen with his band of armed extremists. AP
Philippine troops have killed a leader of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group and rescued four Indonesian hostages held since last year, the military said on Sunday.
Majan Sahidjuan, alias Apo Mike, was severely wounded in a gunbattle with the marines on Saturday night in Languyan town in southern Tawi-Tawi province, and later died, said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr.
He described Sahidjuan as the mastermind in several kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf, which is based in Sulu and has also been involved in bomb attacks and piracy for decades. Since 2014, it has proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.
"We are happy that all the hostages are safe now and we are also able to neutralize the notorious 'Apo Mike' and two of his comrades," said Vinluan, commander of the military's Western Mindanao Command.
Sahidjuan was among five Abu Sayyaf militants who went to Tawi-Tawi by boat from Sulu, with their four Indonesian kidnap victims last Thursday.
Their boat capsized after it was battered by big waves, giving government troops the chance to rescue three of the four hostages - Arizal Kasta Miran, 30; Arsad Bin Dahlan, 41; and Andi Riswanto, 26.
The fourth, 15-year-old Mohd Khairuldin, was found by government troops in the same village where the gunbattle took place.
The four hostages were among five Indonesians kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf on Jan. 17 last year off Tambisan in Malaysia. One of the five was killed while trying to escape.