A suspected militant believed to be a liaison between Muslim rebels and a Southeast Asian terrorist network was arrested in the restive southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.
Security forces apprehended Abi Pamanay in the central part of Mindanao Island on Tuesday based on an arrest warrant for murder in connection with bombing attacks, said Philippine army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz.
Ortiz accused Pamanay of being a member of the largest Muslim separatist group and a "senior associate" of notorious bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman, who has been on the run for his alleged links with the Indonesian-based terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah and the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group, both blamed for a series of deadly attacks across the region.
Pamanay was being interrogated after his arrest in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province, Ortiz said. Other officials were quoted as saying he did not resist arrest and had denied the charges against him.
Usman is a Filipino on the U.S. State Department's list of most-wanted terrorists who carries a $1 million bounty.
Pakistani military intelligence officers last year claimed that Usman was killed with other militants in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistani tribal regions, but a Philippine military official later denied it, saying that Usman had been sighted near southern Maguindanao province.
Philippine officials have said that Muslim rebels and the Abu Sayyaf maintain ties with Jemaah Islamiyah, providing sanctuary for dozens of Indonesian militants and making use of their training.
Ortiz said that Pamanay was a member of a special operations unit of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main rebel group that has been fighting for Muslim self-rule for decades and is engaged in negotiations with the government.
Rebel leader Mohagher Iqbal said Wednesday he could not recognize Pamanay's name and was still validating if he had any links with the insurgents. He also denied that Usman was a member of the group.
After a decade of U.S. military training and intelligence-gathering in the southern Philippines, hundreds of militants are still active despite battlefield gains that have killed or captured dozens of senior leaders.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.