2 Filipino militants linked to kidnappings nabbed

AP News
Posted: Mar 08, 2012 5:11 AM
2 Filipino militants linked to kidnappings nabbed

Philippine troops have captured a gunman of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist movement who has been linked to the kidnappings of three Americans and another militant implicated in the 2007 beheadings of Filipino marines, a military official said Thursday.

Army scout rangers on Wednesday captured Serham Akalon in his hide-out in southern Basilan province's Sumisip town, while Anni Idris was seized in the provincial capital of Isabela city, army Col. Ricardo Visaya said.

Both are active in the Abu Sayyaf, a radical Muslim movement in the Philippines that has received funding and training from al-Qaida.

Akalon has been implicated in the 2007 beheadings of 10 marines during a clash in Basilan's remote Al-Barka town and was also accused of involvement in one case of kidnapping, Visaya said, adding he was captured but escaped with 31 mostly Muslim insurgents in a 2009 rebel attack on a Basilan jail.

Troops found an M16 rifle and a grenade in the hide-out of Akalon, who uses the nom de guerre Uttoh Takas, Visaya said, adding that the militant did not resist arrest.

Idris allegedly played a role in the 2001 kidnappings of three Americans and 17 mostly Chinese Filipino tourists, who were seized in a resort in the western province of Palawan and taken aboard motor boats to Basilan, where they were held for several months in jungle encampments, Visaya said.

One of the Americans was beheaded by the militants and another was killed during an army commando rescue that freed the third American. The other hostages either escaped or were freed after payment of ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf is on a U.S list of terrorist organizations and is notorious for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and extortion. U.S.-backed offensives have considerably weakened the militants, who number less than 400, but they are still considered a key national security threat.

The Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf faction still has 60 to 70 gunmen, who are led by a commander identified as Khair Mundos, Visaya said.