Philippines captures militant wanted for beheadings

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:51 EDT
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Philippine soldiers. Image via AFP.
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An Islamic militant accused of beheading Philippine soldiers and a host of other attacks was arrested on Tuesday after he was taken by surprise in his remote island hideout, authorities said.

Security forces captured Abdulpattah Ismael, a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, in a raid on a village on the strife-torn southern island of Basilan, said regional police chief Superintendent Napoleon Estilles.

“He did not resist. He was taken by surprise. He did not expect this so he did not have time to react,” Estilles told AFP.

Ismael faces murder charges for allegedly taking part in an ambush on Basilan in 2007 in which 14 Marines were killed, 10 of whom were beheaded, in one of the deadliest attacks by the Abu Sayyaf on the Philippine military.

Estilles said Ismael also participated in a raid on a Basilan jail in 2009 that led to 31 inmates escaping, including Muslim militants, and the death of a guard.

The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of Islamic militants founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

It has been blamed for the nation’s worst terrorist attacks, including a ferry bombing in Manila in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.

Abu Sayyaf militants are based almost exclusively in remote and Muslim-populated areas of the southern Philippines, including Basilan island.

A rotating force of 600 US special forces have been stationed in the south for a decade to teach local troops how to deal with the Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim militant groups.

The Abu Sayyaf has only a few hundred militants left, down from about 2,000 a decade ago, according to the military and security analysts, and Philippine security forces regularly claim victories against the group.

The military said it bombed an Abu Sayyaf hideout on Jolo island, close to Basilan, at the start of this month, killing 15 militants including three senior leaders of the Abu Sayyaf and the allied Jemaah Islamiyah group.

But the Abu Sayyaf has remained an enduring security threat and is accused of regularly carrying out kidnappings for ransoms. Seven foreigners kidnapped in recent years in the south are believed to still be in captivity.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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