Cotabato City, Philippines (dpa) – Two of the most-wanted Indonesian Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants are on the run in the southern Philippines and government troops have picked up their trail, a marine official said Tuesday.
In a separate development, the army said it had arrested an Abu Sayyaf member involved in the kidnapping of three US citizens in 2002, as well as a series of bomb attacks. Soldiers apprehended Sharie Amiruddin, also known as Abu Omar, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group, on Monday in Zamboanga City, 875km south of Manila.
Marine Brig Gen Ben Dolorfino said soldiers and policemen have been dispatched to scour several areas in the southern region of Mindanao where JI members Omar Patek and Dulmatin were recently spotted. Both have rewards on their head.
“They (Dulmatin and Patek) are on the run right now,” he said. “From central Mindanao (areas), they moved to the Zamboanga peninsula. They were also monitored in the nearby provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.”
“They joined forces with armed groups, including the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels, which is known to operate in the area,” Dolorfino added.
Dulmatin and Patek, who are the key suspects in the deadly Bali bombings 2002 that killed more than 200 people, were last spotted in the provinces of Maguindanao and Cotabato several months ago.
Dolorfino added trhat the Indonesians might have transferred to Zamboanga after the Muslim secessionist rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejected them.
The MILF is holding peace negotiations with the government and has vowed to cooperate in the country’s anti-terrorism campaign.
Authorities have warned that more than 40 JI militants were operating in Mindanao and may be plotting to launch bomb attacks in urban centres. The terrorists are allegedly working with local rebels, particularly the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.