The Philippines continues with its successful campaign to arrest top Islamic militants operating in the Southern part of the country when they announced, on Saturday 09/05/2009, the arrest of Smawtin  Basilan, a top Moro Islamic Liberation Front – MILF commander.

The announcement came five day after the arrest of Hajer Sailani and 11 days after the arrest of Dinno Amor Pareja and are, probably, linked to each other.

Smawtin  Basilan, who had a $12,000 bounty on his head, was arrested at his home in Midsayap town, Near Cotabato, Mindanao, on Wednesday 09/02/2009, police said (see also – Cotabato 07.05.09).

Smawtin  Basilan is believed to be a top lieutenant of MILF commander Ameril Umbrakato, one of two MILF leaders wanted for large-scale attacks on several mostly Christian towns and provinces in the south in 08/2008.

The attacks led to the deaths of over 300 people and the displacement of over 750,000 in what international aid agencies have described as a worrying humanitarian crisis.

While many have already returned to their homes, thousands still remain in squalid evacuation shelters and are routinely subjected to abuses by both soldiers and the MILF, rights monitors have said.

“We have information that he is the right hand of Ameril Umbrakato, but we are still verifying it,” provincial governor Jesus Sacdalan said. The arrest came as both sides were working to revive peace talks aimed at ending the MILF’s 31-year-old insurgency (see – MI.LF warning).
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