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Top communist rebel arrested in Philippines

world Updated: Mar 03, 2009 12:09 IST

A top communist rebel leader blamed for extorting "revolutionary taxes" from businessmen in the Philippines has been arrested, the army said on Tuesday.

Eduardo Sarmiento headed the regional party committee in the central Visayas region for the Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army (CPP-NPA) and had standing arrest warrants for various crimes, the army said.

"Mr Sarmiento was arrested alone and in possession of high explosives and fake identification cards," the army said in a statement.

It said that Sarmiento was arrested on February 24 following a tip off by former cadres.

It added that Sarmiento headed a "nationwide extortion syndicate" operated by the CPP-NPA, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since 1969 in one of Asia's longest-running communist insurgencies.

"We expect more arrests soon, in our unrelenting campaign to crush this criminal organisation," the army said.

The group frequently targets power and telecoms infrastructure owned by firms that refuse to pay illegal "revolutionary taxes" demanded by the rebels.