Philippine police have arrested an Abu Sayyaf gunman who allegedly helped behead seven Filipino workers while singing a militant song in a grisly 2007 crime, officials said Wednesday.
Police said Adzhar Mawalil was captured Tuesday by government forces on southern Jolo island.
Mawalil, 32, has also been implicated in the 2000 kidnappings of 21 mostly European tourists from a dive resort in neighboring Malaysia and the 2009 abductions of three Filipino, Italian and Swiss aid workers for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jolo, national police spokesman Agrimero Cruz said.
All the captives from the Malaysian resort and the Red Cross were eventually freed, reportedly after large ransom payments.
Mawalil appeared in a video circulated by Abu Sayyaf militants showing them beheading six road project workers and a factory worker while singing a song in a Jolo jungle in 2007. The video helped authorities identify and capture Mawalil in Sulu province's Jolo town, two security officials said.
The two officials, who help oversee assaults against the Abu Sayyaf, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
The seven workers were killed by the Abu Sayyaf after the construction company refused to pay a ransom demanded by the militants, officials said at the time. Their heads were dumped by the militants near the gates of a Jolo army detachment to mock government troops.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is listed by Washington as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization, has been blamed for deadly bombings, abductions and beheadings. It has been the target of a decade-long U.S.-backed Philippine military offensive on Jolo and the nearby island province of Basilan.
Army scout rangers battled about 50 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf members Wednesday in a forest near Basilan's Al Barka town in fierce fighting that killed a soldier and wounded two others. Several militants were believed wounded but were dragged away by their companions, who retreated after three hours, army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said.
Reinforcement troops were pursuing the militants, Cabunoc said.
Nearly 400 Abu Sayyaf gunmen remain at large in the jungles of Jolo, an impoverished Muslim region about 590 miles (950 kilometers) south of Manila, and in Basilan and outlying islands. Washington has offered large rewards for the capture of the Abu Sayyaf's remaining top commanders.