Philippine troops have arrested a suspected Islamic militant commander accused of being involved in the kidnapping of 21 Western tourists and Asian workers from a Malaysian resort island in 2001, a military official said Thursday.
The suspect, Sakirin Andalan Sali, 44, was arrested Wednesday on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, a stronghold of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebel group, said Major General Juancho Sabban, commander of an anti-terrorism task force on Jolo, reported dpa.
Sali was arrested with the help of an ex-Abu Sayyaf rebel who was now working with the military in hunting down his former comrades, Sabban said.
The general said Sali, who has a 2-million-peso (40,200-dollar) bounty on his head, was a subcommander of one of the masterminds of the 2001 kidnapping on the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan.
The hostages, who included a German family of three, were held for months in the jungles of Jolo before they were freed, allegedly in exchange for millions of dollars in ransom through Libya's assistance.
The Abu Sayyaf is the smallest but most violent Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines. Aside from being responsible for high-profile kidnapping-for-ransom cases, it has also been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country.