KOTA KINABALU - A notorious cross-border kidnapping gang leader arrested in the southern Philippines may be released if the authorities find no incriminating evidence against him.
Philippine security officials are interrogating Apo Kahumbo @ Mubin Halil, who was arrested armed with a loaded handgun and a grenade on Tuesday at a remote village in Tawi-Tawi province, bordering Sabah.
They said they were looking for any other evidence in his possession that could become the basis for his continued detention.
A Philippine intelligence source said Kahumbo might be out of jail if the authorities did not have anything concrete on him.
"We need to look at some basis for criminal charges to keep him detained," he said.
Kahumbo was arrested as hundreds of police personnel swarmed his village in Tawi-Tawi, located barely 150km from Pulau Mabul off Sabah's east-coast Semporna district.
Philippine police said they were trying to ascertain whether Kahumbo was involved in an attack on Malaysian marine police unit on Pulau Mabul on July 12 that saw the killing of Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, and the abduction of Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao police chief Chief Supt Noel delos Reyes said Kahumbo, 44, was apprehended in Sanga-sanga in Tawi-Tawi after he was found carrying a .45-calibre pistol, bullets and a grenade at a mobile checkpoint on Tuesday.
The paper also reported the police's Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) as saying that it received intelligence that Kahumbo was an Abu Sayyaf member operating in Tawi-Tawi.
Chief Insp Arthur Valdez of the AKG believed that Kahumbo, being a good navigator, was instrumental in bringing kidnap victims from Sabah to Sulu.
The Pulau Mabul attack was the latest in a series of kidnapping raids in Sabah's east coast since last November.