Philippine security forces say they have recaptured Khair Mundos
, a suspected top operative in the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf
organization and a fugitive on the State Department’s list of wanted terrorists since 2009.
The United States has offered a reward of up to half-a-million dollars for the capture of Mundos, described as a key leader and financier of terrorist group accused of killing Americans and Filipinos.
Mundos had been arrested
in the Philippines in 2004 and charged with a variety of crimes including multiple murders. He escaped during his trial in 2007 and was arrested again Wednesday in a neighborhood near Manila's main airport. Police say he had been staying with a local relative.
The State Department said Mundos had confessed to arranging the transfer of funds from al-Qaida to Abu Sayyaf.
“U.S. authorities consider Mundos to be a threat to U.S. and Filipino citizens and interests,” the State Department said.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to have several hundred armed militants in the Philippines. According to the U.S, National Counterterrorism Center, the group has been linked to numerous bombings, murders, and kidnappings.
In May 2001, Abu Sayyaf “kidnapped three US citizens and 17 Filipinos from a resort in Palawan, Philippines, later murdering several of the hostages, including one U.S. citizen,” the counterterrorism center reported.
The American murder victim was Guillermo Sobero, a 40-year-old tourist from California, one of the three Americans kidnapped in May 2001. He was beheaded
the following month.
On February 27, 2004, Abu Sayyaf operatives bombed a ferry in Manila Bay, killing 116 people, and one year later they killed at least eight people and wounded close to 150 more in simultaneous bombings in three Philippine cities.
Abu Sayyaf is believed responsible for detonating a motorcycle bomb that exploded outside the Philippine Congress in November 2007, killing a Philippines congressman and three staff members, and it has been linked to numerous kidnappings for ransom in recent years.
On top of the U.S. reward, the Philippines had offered a sum roughly equivalent to $27,270 for Mundos’ capture. Philippines military officials called his arrest a major blow to Abu Sayyaf’s operations.
While being escorted to jail Wednesday, Mundos denied involvement in terrorist activity and said he had been arrested because he was a Muslim.
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