PHILIPPINE troops have arrested a senior Islamic militant over the kidnapping and killing of a group of tourists in 2001, a military statement said.
Soldiers backed by police raided a hideout of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in southern Margosatubig island yesterday, the statement said.
Troops arrested Abu Sayyaf commander Tuatin Anahaly and seized a cache of weapons including a pistol that he was carrying, near the city of Zamboanga.
Anahaly has been on the run since a two million peso ($A55,000 or US$ 48,000) bounty was placed on this head over his role in the abduction of three Americans and a group of Filipinos from a resort
Five of the hostages, including two of the Americans, were later killed.
Many of the Abu Sayyaf gunmen who took part in the raid have since been killed or captured, and last month 14 Abu Sayyaf members were sentenced to life in prison over the incident.
The Abu Sayyaf, set up with funds from the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, has been blamed for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, including a 2004 ferry bombing on Manila that claimed more than 100 lives.
ZAMBOANGA CITY -- (UPDATE) An alleged Abu Sayyaf leader involved in the 2001 raid on beach resort and the subsequent hostage-taking incident inside the Don Jose Torres Memorial Hospital in Lamitan, Basilan was captured, the military said Friday.
More than 20 people were taken from the beach resort, including Americans Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero.
Martin was killed in a botched military rescue operation in Zamboanga Sibugay while Sobero was beheaded by the bandits.
Major Eugene Batara, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said Tuatin Anahalul alias Abu Basilan was captured during an operation by combined forces of the police and military in Igat Island off Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur around 3 p.m. Thursday.
"His capture or arrest is covered with warrant of arrest for the Resort kidnapping, and Lamitan siege in 2001," Batara said.
Soldiers and policemen who conducted the operation recovered assorted firearms from the suspected bandit leader.
Anahalun's arrest led to the capture of another bandit sub-leader, according to Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.
Allaga refused to identify the second suspect, who he said was a former henchman of the late Abu Sayyaf leader Hamsiraji Sali.
The Abu Sayyaf, which gained notoriety for its daring abduction of foreigners and locals, was founded by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, a self-proclaimed Islamist who had volunteered to fight the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Passing itself as a revolutionary movement seeking to establish an Islamic state in Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf also forged alliance with the Jemaah Islamiyah, Osama Bin Laden's arm in Southeast Asia.
The military has been intensifying its campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and has gained victory in recent years, including the death of Janjalani and his successor, his younger brother Khadaffy, Abu Sayyaf spokesman Aldam Tilao and several other ranking bandit leaders.
More than a hundred members were also arrested in various occasions and were now serving time after having been convicted of kidnapping or terrorism.