ZAMBOANGA—The Philippine military said Thursday it had arrested four members of an al-Qaeda-linked group implicated in the 2000 kidnapping of 21 tourists and workers from Malaysia’s Sipadan resort.
The four suspects, all said to be from the Abu Sayyaf group, were tracked to a shopping mall in the southern city of Zamboanga Tuesday and detained without incident, Lt. Gen. Generoso Senga, Southern Command chief, said.
Abu Sayyaf gunmen took 21 people, mostly Western tourists and Malaysian and Filipino workers, from Sipadan resort on Sabah Island in April 2000, holding them in the jungles of Jolo island for months.
The military said the suspects—Jolo natives Herman Sailal Sawabi, 18; Hamdan Salijala Taraji, 18; Hadjirul Abdultiya Muhtalib, 22 and Reynaldo Tumawis Itiman, 23—were among those who secured the hostages.
The four suspects are also believed to have taken part in the kidnapping of six Jehovah’s Witnesses missionaries in Jolo in 2002. Two of the missionaries were later beheaded by their captors, Senga said.
Most of the hostages were released after ransom was paid and the government said it had cracked down the group, arresting many of its leaders.
But earlier this month, President Arroyo said that the Abu Sayyaf had been behind an explosion on a ferry in Manila Bay in February which left more than a hundred people dead in the country’s worst ever terrorist act.
Both Washington and Manila have linked the Abu Sayyaf to the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.