Philippines says arrests Islamic militant leader

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine security forces on Wednesday
arrested the leader of an Islamic militant group suspected of
involvement in the sinking of a ferry that killed more than a
100 people last year, an army general said.

Ahmad Islam Santos, the head of a radical Muslim convert
group with ties to the Abu Sayyaf terror group, and eight
suspected militants were caught from a house in Zamboanga, one
of the largest cities on the southern island of Mindanao.

“We’ve got a very big guy,” Lieutenant-General Edilberto
Adan told reporters and added that weapons, explosives and maps
of the capital, Manila, were seized from the hideout.

“He’s still undergoing tactical interrogation. We believed
the group was up to something big during the long holiday,” he
said, referring to next week’s holidays to mark the Roman
Catholic All Saints Day and the end of Ramadan for Muslims.

Santos, also known as Hilarion del Rosario, is believed to
have founded the Rajah Solaiman Movement in the late 1990s
after he converted to Islam and attended military training in a
Muslim rebel camp in Mindanao’s Lanao province.

The Abu Sayyaf group claimed responsibility for the sinking
of the ferry near Manila in 2004 that killed more than 100
people, the country’s worst terror attack.

Intelligence authorities said Santos’s group was also
involved in the attack.

One of the self-confessed ferry bombers was a Muslim
convert that belonged to the Rajah Solaiman Movement. Rajah
Solaiman was the last Muslim ruler of Manila whose kingdom was
destroyed by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century.

Adan said that Santos and his companions did not resist
arrest when a combined team of soldiers and police officers
stormed the hideout early on Wednesday. The rebels were
sleeping when the raid began, said a soldier involved in the
assault.

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