Philippine troops have arrested an alleged Abu Sayyaf militant suspected of involvement in numerous kidnappings, including those of American and European tourists, police said Wednesday.
Abdulhan Ussih, subject of a $77,000 bounty, was captured Tuesday after three months of surveillance in southern Zamboanga city. He was a fish trader and helped secure food and other supplies for the militants, police Senior Superintendent Generoso Bonifacio said.
Ussih has denied any link to al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf and to the kidnappings, but he provided food and other items needed by Radulan Sahiron, an Abu Sayyaf commander on southern Jolo island who has been blamed for high-profile ransom kidnappings, Bonifacio said.
The militants seized European tourists from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan in 2000 and three Americans and 17 Filipinos from the Philippine resort of Dos Palmas in 2001. They beheaded one of the Americans and another died during a military rescue.
Meanwhile Wednesday, army troops clashed with about 15 Abu Sayyaf militants near Sumisip town on southern Basilan island where the gunmen apparently were planning to bomb a road project as part of an extortion bid, army Col. Ricardo Visaya said.
The militants fled, leaving behind bomb parts, a motorcycle and binoculars. Troops were pursuing the militants, Visaya said, and no casualties in the fighting were immediately reported.
The Abu Sayyaf, now estimated to have less than 400 armed fighters, has been weakened by U.S.-backed Philippine military offensives but remains a key security concern. The U.S. says it is terrorist organization responsible for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.