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12/14/03 - ABU SAYYAF LEADER CAPTURED - 2003-12-16

Philippine authorities have captured a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which has links to al-Qaida. Galib Andang, also known as Commander Robot, was wounded and captured in a gun battle with Philippine security forces on Jolo Island, in the southern Philippines.

Andang is wanted for a series of kidnappings, including the April 2000 abduction of twenty-one foreign tourists and Philippine citizens at a resort in Sipadan, Malaysia. A senior Philippine military officer said Andang "was planning another kidnapping in Jolo," at the time of his capture. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo called Andang's capture "another heavy blow to the Abu Sayyaf."

Abu Sayyaf shares Al-Qaida’s extremism masking as religion. It’s goal is to establish a radical fundamentalist Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu islands of the southern Philippines.

In April 1995, Abu Sayyaf terrorists burned the village of Ipil and murdered more than fifty people. In June 2003, Philippines troops captured one of those responsible for planning the Ipil attack -- Kalaw Jaljalis. In February, another senior Abu Sayyaf leader, Mujib Susukan, was killed in a shoot-out with Philippines security forces.

Philippine authorities have also hit hard against the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group, which is also affiliated with al-Qaida. Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, a top Jemmah Islamiah planner and bomb expert, was killed in a gun battle with Philippines troops in October.

President George W. Bush said the United States stands with the Philippines in the war against terror:

"Both our nations are threatened by terrorism, and we are determined to fight that threat until it is defeated. Our diplomats and law enforcement and intelligence officers are working arm-in-arm to disrupt terror plots, to cut off terrorist financing, and to bring terrorists to justice."

And Philippines President Arroyo said that the Philippines will not surrender to terrorism. Instead, she said, it "has chosen to fight."