The United States offered rewards of up to $2.5 million on Tuesday for three members of the Philippines-based Islamist rebel group Abu Sayyaf, one of whom was involved in kidnapping US tourists in 2001.
As part of its “Rewards for Justice” programme, the State Department offered up to $1 million for Radullan Sahiron, a one-armed senior leader of the small but violent group aligned with regional militants.
“Sahiron played a role in the May 2001 Dos Palmas kidnapping of three US citizens and 17 Filipinos from a tourist resort in Palawan, Philippines,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.
In that incident, three of the hostages, including US citizen Guillermo Sobero, were beheaded. Abu Sayyaf is also blamed for the worst militant attack in the Philippines, the bombing of a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.
The State Department also announced a $1 million reward for Abdul Basit Usman, a bomb-making expert with ties to Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah, a regional network of militants behind the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.
“He is believed to have orchestrated several bombings that have killed, injured and maimed many innocent civilians,” said Kelly, adding Basit was suspected of hiding in the Mindanao region of the southern Philippines.
The State Department also offered a reward of up to $500,000 for Khair Mundos, an Abu Sayyaf leader and financier.
Mundos was arrested in May 2004 and the State Department said he confessed to having arranged the transfer of funds from al Qaeda to Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani.
Mundos, who escaped from a provincial jail in February 2007, was a threat to US and Filipino interests, Kelly said.
US forces routinely train and advise Philippine units, as well as build roads and schools, as part of joint efforts to fight Islamic militants.