Leader of Philippine Muslim rebel group caught: Xinhua

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The Philippines military has captured a leader of a breakaway rebel group along with several of its members in the southern Philippine city of General Santos.

Joan Petinglay, spokesperson for the Philippine army's 6th division, said on Monday the military had arrested Mohammad Ali Tambako, founder of the Justice Islamic Movement, also known as the United Islamic Movement for Justice (UIMJ), Xinhua reported.

The predominantly Christian Philippines has been battling Muslim rebels in the south of the archipelago for decades. The latest clashes are between the army and a faction known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has been fighting for independence on Mindanao island.

The Justice Islamic Movement is a splinter group of the BIFF.

The fighting has raised concern about a fragile peace process between the government and the biggest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has links with the BIFF. President Benigno Aquino has promised the MILF autonomy in a southern region in exchange for peace.

General Santos is located in South Cotabato province in the Philippines island of Mindanao.

According to the spokesman, Tambako was riding a motorcycle along with the members of his group when they were stopped by authorities at a checkpoint around 9 pm local time on Sunday. Tambako reportedly did not resist arrest.

Three hand grenades and three weapons from Tambako's possession were also seized.

The military last week said it had seized Tambako's house following an all out offensive in Mamasapano in the island's south-western Maguindanao province.