PH nabs extremist for US priest abduction

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 13 2012 04:15 PM | Updated as of Jul 15 2012 12:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Police on Friday said they had arrested a Muslim extremist allegedly involved in the abduction of a US Catholic priest almost two decades ago.

Police and military units arrested Jumli Orie Manjuri, an alleged member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, on Thursday for the kidnapping of Father William Bertelsman in 1994 on the strife-torn southern island of Jolo.

The suspect was detained on the southern island of Basilan, which like Jolo is a rugged, heavily-forested area and a stronghold of the extremist group, a police statement said.

Manjuri was part of the group that seized the American priest, who was promptly rescued by authorities, the statement said.

The group has frequently abducted foreigners as well as locals since the 1990s with the aim of extorting ransom money, killing kidnap victims during rescue attempts or when payment is not made.

Manjuri is also believed to have taken part in the killing of 14 military trainees in 1998 and the killing of farm workers in 2008, all in the southern Philippines, police said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small band of Islamic militants set up in the 1990s with seed money from the late Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, is based on remote southern islands and is responsible for the country's deadliest terror attacks.

The number of Abu Sayyaf fighters has dropped from roughly 2,000 a decade ago to a few hundred today, according to security analysts.

However the group remains active, staging kidnappings and bombing attacks.