Khair Mundos, one of the top officials of radical Islamist terror group Abu Sayyaf, has been arrested in a Manila slum Wednesday after escaping from prison in 2007. Among other duties, Mundos was responsible for keeping ties with al Qaeda.
The New Straits Times reports that Mundos has been on the list of America’s most wanted terrorists for years, after becoming one of the most prominent leaders of the group. Mundos was known as a “key leader and financier” of Abu Sayyaf before his arrest; subsequent to his escape, the Department of State offered a $50,000 reward for information on Mundos specifically. The government of the Philippines additionally offered $27,270 for information on Mundos, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to a Department statement, “Mundos confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from al-Qaida to Abu Sayyaf Group leader Khadaffy Janjalani to be used in bombings and other criminal acts throughout the island of Mindanao.” He is believed to have continued these activities after escaping prison in 2007. Abu Sayyaf was founded with money from al Qaeda and in large part has continued to exist thanks to funding from the group, which Mundos was responsible for securing.
In addition to financing the operation, Mundos is believed to have worked for Abu Sayyaf as a “bomb maker and instructor” to other terrorists newly joining the group. In a brief exchange with television reporters, Mundos told the crowd he was being arrested for being Muslim.
Abu Sayyaf was responsible for a large number of “bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations, committing indiscriminate acts of terror as well as often targeting Christians as victims of attacks. They are also responsible for the death of a Filipino congressman and were embroiled in a plot to kill President Gloria Arroyo. The group’s activities were in furtherance of the imposition of an Islamist, Sharia-run government in the Philippines, although the nation is overwhelmingly non-Muslim. Eighty-six percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, while 4% of the country is believed to be Muslim.
The government of the Philippines is optimistic that detaining the man responsible for funding Abu Sayyaf will deliver a significant blow to the terrorist organization. The arrest, said Philippines Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, “will greatly affect the operations of the Abu Sayyaf in terms of financial sourcing, as well as their linkages with foreign extremist groups that help in training of Abu Sayyaf members in Mindanao.”