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Philippine Officials Discuss Security Measures Following Series of Bombing - 2002-10-19

Top Philippine officials have met to discuss security measures after a series of bombings in the country, the latest on Friday. President Gloria Arroyo is calling for calm, while vowing to hunt down those responsible.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo urged the public not to panic Saturday after holding an emergency cabinet meeting to review national security. She told her nation that "a few troublemakers with limited capabilities are trying to bully 80 million Filipinos into living in fear and terror."

The latest bombing, the fourth in three weeks, was on a bus near the capital, Manila, late Friday, killing two people and injuring more than 20.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez called the bombings "acts of terror" and said the government is working overtime to increase security. "The president met with the mayors of Metro Manila and the mayors assured her that they have a security plan in place, but at the same time the national government will also be supporting the local executives," he said.

Mr. Golez said intelligence officials are still searching for clues and deciphering what explosives were used in the attacks. There are many rebel and separatist groups in the Philippines and Mr. Golez would not speculate on whether the attack in Manila was related to Thursday's deadly bombings on shopping centers in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga. Seven died and at least 150 were injured.

A number of suspects are being hunted by authorities and investigators are focusing their search on the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group that has been linked to the al-Qaida terror network held responsible for the September 11 terror attacks on America.

Philippine police say they arrested a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf in a raid in Manila and say he was involved in a series of violent kidnappings of foreigners and school children in recent years.

Southeast Asian governments are stepping up anti-terrorism efforts since at least 180 people were killed in a devastating terrorist attack on the Indonesian island of Bali a week ago.