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Philippine police arrest Abu Sayyaf militant

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December 26, 2013 03:21 AM EST | AP

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine authorities have arrested a suspected Muslim militant accused of kidnapping two European bird-watchers last year, officials said Thursday.

The suspect, Haik Asgali, was arrested late Wednesday in Sulu province in a joint police and military operation, police spokesman Reuben Theodore Sindac said.

He said Asgali's team kidnapped Dutch Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra while they were on a bird-watching trip in southern Tawi Tawi province in February 2012.

Militants from the Abu Sayyaf group are holding for ransom more than a dozen captives. U.S.-backed military offensives have crippled the group in recent years, but it remains a key security threat.

Sindac said Asgali is an operative of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, one of the most wanted terrorist suspects in the Philippines.

The United States lists the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization.