Capture of leader a blow to Abu Sayyaf

JOLO (Philippines): The al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf kidnap group in the southern Philippines has been dealt a severe blow with the capture of its top leader in a military operation, President Gloria Arroyo said yesterday.  

Galib Andang, popularly known as Commander Robot, was caught after a gun battle in southern Jolo island late on Sunday as he was planning another abduction, Philippine military chief Gen Narciso Abaya said. 

“With our speedy intelligence information, we learned what he was planning and we prevented what could have been another problem,” Abaya said, without elaborating. 

Andang, who was wounded in both legs in the gun battle, was transported to Manila to be presented to Arroyo, who has vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf with help from the United States. 

IN CUSTODY: Andang being brought down on a stretcher as he arrives at a military airbase in Manila yesterday.- APpic

Andang, in a stretcher, was first flown by helicopter from Jolo island to the southern city of Zamboanga where a woman whom the group had previously kidnapped rushed at him and rained blows on him. 

The woman was hysterical and had to be pulled away. 

As doctors changed Andang's bandages in the Zamboanga airbase hospital, a crowd of civilians screamed curses and obscenities at the man who had once flaunted his frightened hostages before the press like prized pets. 

Arroyo said Andang's capture, through a public tip-off, was “another heavy blow to the Abu Sayyaf,” adding that the military would soon finish the group off once and for all. 

Andang had a five-million-peso (RM342,000) bounty on his head. 

“This is a big step in our fight against terrorism and a big step in the international fight against terror,” Abaya said. 

Military spokesman Col Daniel Lucero said Andang had already provided some information on his fellow militants. 

Lucero expressed hope that Andang would yield more information. – AFP  

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