MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine security forces have captured two Abu Sayyaf militants in a southern city, including one who allegedly was involved in the kidnappings of an American teenage boy and an Australian man, officials said Tuesday.
Police and army troops captured Jimmy Nurilla and Bakrin Haris on Monday in a raid on their hideout in Sangali village in the port city of Zamboanga in a volatile region where the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group has carried out kidnappings for ransom, bombings, extortion and other acts of banditry. One other militant escaped during the raid, police said.
The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission said without elaborating that the militants were in possession of explosives and rebel documents when arrested.
Nurilla was believed to be involved in a number of kidnappings, including of American Kevin Lunsmann, who was 14 when he escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors in 2011 after five months in captivity on Basilan island, near Zamboanga. Nurilla also has been suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Warren Richard Rodwell, a former Australian soldier who was freed near southern Pagadian city in March last year after 15 months of jungle captivity, according to the commission.
Ransom kidnappings have long been a problem in the southern Philippines and have been blamed mostly on the Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaida-linked group on a list of U.S. terrorist organizations, and its allied armed groups.
The Abu Sayyaf, which currently has about 300 armed fighters, was organized in the early 1990s in Basilan, about 880 kilometers (550 miles) south of Manila. With an unwieldy collective of preachers and outlaws, it vowed to wage jihad, or holy war, but lost its key leaders early in combat, sending it on a violent path of extremism and criminality.