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Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 11:47 GMT
Philippines rebel leader arrested
Philippine troops
Troops were sent to hunt down Mr Misuari
Philippines Muslim rebel leader Nur Misuari has been arrested on an island off Malaysia's Sabah state.

Nur Misuari, the former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front, has been on the run since his forces started a fresh rebellion this week on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines.

This is an internal matter of the Philippines and Malaysia should not interfere by providing refuge to rebels from other countries

Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahathir Mohamad
More than 100 people have been killed in clashes between his guerrilla fighters and the government.

Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Norian Mai said Mr Misuari and six of his followers were arrested at 3.30 am on Saturday (1930 GMT Friday) on Jampiras island off Sabah state.

Manila had ordered his arrest on charges of instigating a rebellion after the government suspended his governorship of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, the ARMM.

Although the Philippines has no extradition treaty with Malaysia, the authorities have already made clear that they intend to hand Mr Misuari over to the authorities in Manila as soon as possible.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said before the arrest that, although his country had provided support to the rebel group in the past in its bid for autonomy, Mr Misuari had not used his powers correctly.

"Therefore, we no long feel responsible to provide him with any assistance," he said.

Election looms

Extra troops had been sent into the region to hunt down Mr Misuari and to oversee an election on Monday, when voters will elect his successor.

Mr Misuari had become governor of the region following a 1996 peace deal which he signed as the head of the MNLF with the Philippine Government, ending a 24 year guerrilla war and establishing Muslim self-rule.

The rebel leader, who had been dropped as both leader of the MNLF and as candidate for the election by his party, claims the vote is a violation of the deal.

The authorities say he sparked the rebellion in an attempt to prevent the election going ahead.

But the BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says the Philippine military is determined to crush the rebellion.

There are now some 6,000 troops on the island of Jolo. Government warplanes have been attacking suspected rebel positions for five days, backed by artillery support.

Police and soldiers are guarding all 9,253 precincts where voting will start on Monday morning.

Rebel threats

President Gloria Arroyo has backed Parouk Hussin, Mr Misuari's rival in the MNLF, as candidate to succeed him as governor.

Guards supervise distribution of election ballot papers
Ballot papers have been arriving for Monday's election
She has bitterly attacked Mr Misuari's leadership and his use of funds received from central government.

"He was a good warrior in the fight to win autonomy. But good warriors do not automatically become good administrators," she said recently on national television.

Manila is keen to calm the uprising in Jolo as it faces rebel threats from elsewhere.

The government is currently in peace talks with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and continues to fight a third much smaller group, the Abu Sayyaf, which has links with Osama Bin Laden.

See also:

22 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Army hunts for Philippines governor
21 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Philippines uprising
21 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Over 100' dead in Philippines uprising
20 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Arroyo suspends renegade governor
19 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines peace deal broken
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