Manila (AFP) - The leader of a southern Philippine gang behind the kidnapping of an Australian ex-soldier and an Irish priest was shot dead by security forces on Sunday, the military said.
Waning Abdusalam was killed after he resisted arrest by a combined military and police team in the strife-torn island of Mindanao, said military spokesman Major Filemon Tan.
The suspect was gunned down in the town of Naga in Zamboanga Sibugay province. He may have had links to the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group known for kidnapping foreigners and Christians, said Tan.
The Abu Sayyaf, founded with seed money from Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States. It has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.
Tan said Waning had been involved in the kidnapping for ransom of numerous people in Mindanao, including several Filipinos as well as Irish missionary Father Michael Sinnott in 2009 and Australian Warren Rodwell in 2011.
While Sinnott was released after about a month through the intercession of a larger Muslim rebel group, Rodwell spent 15 months as a hostage and was only freed after ransom was paid.
The Abu Sayyaf were blamed for the Rodwell kidnapping.
Kidnapping for ransom is frequent in the southern Philippines, where Muslim separatist insurgents and bandits have been active for decades.
Early this month suspected Abu Sayyaf militants holding two Canadians and a Norwegian set a one-month deadline for millions of dollars in ransom to be paid.
In a video posted on a local jihadist group's Facebook page, the emaciated victims warned they would be killed unless the ransom was paid.
Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor were seized from yachts at a marina in the southern Philippines in September.
The Philippine government has stressed its position of not paying ransom. Police said they are continuing efforts to rescue the hostages.