MANILA - A suspected Islamist extremist linked to the kidnapping of several Malaysians in the Philippines, including one that was beheaded last month, was arrested Friday, the military said.
Kadaffy Muktadil is a member of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, which security analysts say is behind dozens of kidnappings in the past two years and has proven increasingly brazen after beheading Malaysian national Bernard Then in November.
The suspect, who also went by the name of Kadaffy Camsa, was arrested on the southern island of Jolo when he sought treatment at a hospital after a motorbike crash, the head of a counter-terrorism military task force in the area, Alan Arrojado, told AFP.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the murder of Then, one of two Malaysians abducted by gunmen at a restaurant in the Sabah port of Sandakan in May.
The Philippine military said Then was murdered in the Abu Sayyaf's stronghold of Jolo, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of Sandakan, after ransom talks collapsed.
The other Sandakan hostage, Thien Nyuk Fun, had been released a week earlier.
Malaysia had issued an arrest warrant against Muktadil for the kidnappings earlier this week, Arrojado said.
Founded in the 1990s with the help of Osama Bin Laden, Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the Philippines' worst terror attacks, including bombings and kidnappings for ransom.
The group is holding two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian businessman abducted in the southern Philippines in September, along with a Dutch birdwatcher kidnapped in 2012.
They are also widely believed to be holding an Italian pizza restaurant owner snatched in the region in October.
The Abu Sayyaf has staged cross-border raids into Malaysia before, including in April 2000 when gunmen seized 21 European and Asian tourists from a dive resort.
They were released in batches after a ransom was paid the following year.