ZAMBOANGA CITY: Security forces captured two radical militants in separate operations in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, just several nautical miles south of Basilan province where military forces are battling the Abu Sayyaf, police said on Sunday.
Police said an Abu Sayyaf member, Johan Jaalam, was nabbed on Saturday near KCC Mall, but details of the operation was not made public, although officials said the militant is facing a string of criminal charges.
A leader of the militant group Rajah Solaiman Movement – Melquiades Abrera II – was also captured on Friday and that an automatic pistol and two grenades were seized from him by policemen and soldiers who tracked him down in the village of Santa Barbara.
Chief Inspector Rogelio Alabata, regional police spokesman, confirmed the arrest of Abrera, a native of Antipolo City, Rizal province in Luzon. He said Abrera, also known as Mikhail Abdulasis Abrera, was one of the planners of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, blamed for terrorism in the Philippines.
It was not immediately known whether Abrera was planning to attack in Zamboanga or not, but Alabata said police launched a follow up operation here. Abrera is currently being interrogated by the police.
The Rajah Solaiman Movement, founded by Ahmed Santos, a Christian who converted to Islam, seeks to establish an Islamic state in the Philippines and is working with the Abu Sayyaf group.
In June 2008, Washington designated Santos and seven other senior members of the Rajah Solaiman Movement — Angelo Trinidad, Pio de Vera, Redendo Dellosa, Feliciano de los Reyes, Dino Amor Pareja, Ricardo Ayeras and Reuben Lavilla — as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
They were all captured separately in the Philippines and have been implicated in ransom kidnappings and many bombings and deadly attacks on civilian targets, including the February 2005 Valentine’s Day bombings that left dozens of civilians dead and injured, the August 2005 twin bombings in Zamboanga City, which wounded 26 people; the Super Ferry bombing in February 2004 that killed over 100 people, and the February 2003 bombing of the Awang airport in Maguindanao.
Its members were involved in several plots to bomb high-profile targets, as well, including Manila public utilities, tourist areas, and the US Embassy in Manila. It received training, funds, and operational assistance from the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, and received funding from private Saudi sources that channelled funds through charitable nongovernmental organizations in the Philippines.