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Ironduke
09 Dec 03,, 04:32
Abu Sayyaf commander held

A senior member of the Philippines kidnapping group Abu Sayyaf has been captured by the country's armed forces.

Galib Andang, popularly known as Commander Robot, was caught after a gun battle between the rebels and the military on Sunday in southern Jolo island following a public tip-off as to his whereabouts.

He is suspected of taking part in a series of kidnappings for ransom, including the abduction of 21 tourists from a Malaysian dive resort in April 2000.

After Mr Andang was transported to the southern city of Zamboanga, he was reported to have been verbally abused by a crowd of onlookers, and even attacked by one of his former kidnap victims.

He was given treatment at Zamboanga airbase for treatment to wounds sustained during the gun fight. He had been shot in both legs.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo hailed his capture as "another heavy blow to the Abu Sayyaf".

He was due to be taken to Manila on Monday, where he faces charges punishable by death.

The Abu Sayyaf comprises a few dozen armed Filipino Muslims whose main occupation is kidnapping for ransom.

Philippines military chief General Narciso Abaya said the armed forces would now step up their efforts to track down the other Abu Sayyaf leaders still at large.

They are: Khadaffy, Janjalani, Radulan Sahiron, Abu Salaiman and Hamsiraji Sali.

In the past few years, the group has kidnapped scores of Filipinos and foreigners and has killed many of its captives.

The United States regards the kidnappers as terrorists because they once had links with Osama Bin Laden.

The Philippine Government has deployed thousands of troops in the south in an effort to rescue the last of the hostages and eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.

The US also sent troops to the region to train and equip the Philippine armed forces for what they consider part of the war on terrorism.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3300369.stm