MANILA, Philippines — Philippine security forces on Wednesday captured a top Filipino commander of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group who is on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists and has acknowledged receiving al-Qaida funds to finance bombings in the country.
Khair Mundos did not resist when army troops and police arrested him in a slum community near Manila's international airport. It was not immediately clear why he was in the capital. The military and police have been hunting him for his alleged involvement in bombings and kidnappings.
Mundos is one of the highest-ranked terrorist suspects to be captured in the country in years. His arrest deals a major blow to the Abu Sayyaf, where he was a top commander, a combat trainer, spiritual leader and a plotter of bombings and ransom kidnappings, according to military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano.
"He's a high-value target," national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Sindac said.
The U.S. State Department announced a $500,000 reward in 2009 for Mundos' killing or capture. The Philippine government also offered a reward.
The State Department says Mundos, who was captured in 2004 but escaped in 2007, has acknowledged in the past that he has arranged the transfer of al-Qaida funds to the Abu Sayyaf to finance bombings in the Philippines.
He is one of the original leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, which has seen many of its commanders killed or captured in more than a decade of U.S. military-backed Philippine military offensives. He is thought to be the current leader of Abu Sayyaf forces on southern Basilan, an impoverished, primarily Muslim jungle island where Mundos and two brothers joined the group.
Washington has listed the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group and blames it for deadly attacks on American troops, missionaries and civilians in the southern Philippines.
The group still has an estimated 300 armed fighters split into about six factions and has been blamed for deadly bomb attacks, extortion, ransom kidnappings and beheadings, according to the military and police.