MANILA - Philippine security forces have arrested a Muslim rebel responsible for the death of two US servicemen in a September 2009 roadside bombing on the remote southern island of Jolo, a police general said on Monday.
Jolo is the hotbed of Muslim rebels and al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants. Dozens of US troops are still deployed there to train and advise Filipino troops in fighting the small but violent Abu Sayyaf group.
The group carries out extortions and kidnappings for ransom. The militants are holding hostage three Chinese, two Germans, a Japanese, a Swiss and a Dutch national. They recently freed a Chinese woman and a Filipino resort worker.
A team of policemen and soldiers surprised Miraji Bairullah, also known as Mahang, in his hideout on Sunday morning outside the town of Indanan on the island, said Benjamin Magalong, head of a police criminal investigation and detection group.
"Mahang was escorted to Zamboanga City, where he is facing multiple murder charges," Magalong said, adding that the United States had expressed interest in the case.
"He is an expert bomb-maker who trained under Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda." He said Mahang was believed to be a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which assembled an improvised bomb that killed two US soldiers and a Filipino marine in Indanan in 2009.
The troops were on their way to inspect a school project when their vehicle, a Humvee, rolled over an improvised bomb. Three soldiers were killed and three were wounded.
In March, the government and the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, reached a deal to end 45 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted economic growth.