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Manila captures senior Abu Sayyaf


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• War against terror: Southeast Asia front 
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MANILA, The Philippines -- The Philippines military has captured a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group believed responsible for kidnapping 21 people from a Malaysian resort in April 2000.

Ghalib Andang, known as Commander Robot, was captured by soldiers on Sunday evening in the southern Philippines after being wounded in a firefight, sources said.

The head of the Philippine army's anti-kidnapping task force, General Angelo Reyes, told CNN Monday the military now had the Islamic group on the back foot.

"We have been able to neutralize a number of them," he said, adding that Abu Sayyaf's numbers had dropped from a high of about 600 to down to less than a 100.

"This has been due to the relentless operations conducted against Abu Sayyaf. So I would think right now they are a strained force," Reyes said.

"They are still capable of limited harassment activities. But their force has been largely degraded."

Reyes also said Andang had been injured during his capture and was now in a military hospital, but the extent of his injury was not known.

He said he believed Andang was responsible for the April 2000 kidnappings which had created a national crisis in the Philippines.

The victims of the kidnapping from the Sipadan resort in Malaysia came from seven different nations and were held for periods varying from a few months to three years. Ransoms are believed to have been paid in most cases, Reuters reports.

The Abu Sayyaf group is one of several Islamic militant groups fighting the government in and around the southern island of Mindanao and has been linked by Washington to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Andang was not one of the five Abu Sayyaf members on a wanted list issued by the United States.

The military said Andang was captured on the island of Jolo, south of Mindanao, according to Reuters.


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