Philippine troops capture Muslim militant linked to kidnapping of Americans

Military intelligence agents captured a suspected al-Qaida-linked militant accused in bombings and the 2001 kidnapping of 20 people, including three Americans, at a Philippine resort, the army said Tuesday.

Sharie Amiruddin, an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebel group who also is known by his nom de guerre Abu Omar, was arrested Monday in the southern port of Zamboanga and was in police custody, army spokesman Maj. Bartolome Bacarro said.

Warrants for Amiruddin's arrest have been issued for his alleged role in 13 counts of kidnapping on the southern islands of Jolo and Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf has an active presence, Bacarro said.

Amiruddin also has been linked to bomb attacks on Jolo and in the southern cities of Zamboanga and Cotabato. He allegedly helped plan the 2001 kidnapping of 17 Filipinos and three Americans from the Dos Palmas resort in southwestern Palawan province, Bacarro said.

One of the Americans, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, California, was beheaded. American missionary Martin Burnham of Wichita, Kansas, was killed during an army commando rescue mission a year later in which his wife, Gracia, was wounded and recovered.

The kidnapping of the Americans prompted the U.S. military to deploy troops to the southern Philippines to train and arm Filipinos battling the militants.

The Abu Sayyaf, blamed for deadly bombings, kidnappings and banditry, is estimated to have about 400 guerrillas, down from more than 1,000 at the height of its high-profile kidnapping spree in early 2000. It's blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist group, reports the AP.

I.L.