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Iraqi Diplomat Linked to Abu Sayyaf, say Philippine Officials - 2003-02-10


Philippine officials say they have intelligence linking an Iraqi diplomat to the Muslim militant group, Abu Sayyaf. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople summoned the head of the Iraqi diplomatic mission to tell him of intelligence reports linking an Iraqi diplomat to the radical Islamic group, Abu Sayyaf.

The Philippine intelligence agency said it monitored calls between the guerillas and the Iraqi Second Secretary Husham Hussein shortly after a bomb attack in October. Authorities blame the Abu Sayyaf for that attack, which killed a U.S. soldier and three Philippine citizens.

Mr. Ople said the Iraqi charge d'affaires, Samir Bolus, denied that any of his staff were involved with the Abu Sayyaf.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Victoriano Lecaros was present during the meeting. "The Iraqi charge said that the Iraqi government, in fact, condemns the Abu Sayyaf," Mr. Lecaros said. Mr. Lecaros adds that Manila would not take further action against the diplomat. "We are just telling them that such actions if proven to be true, are not consistent with their status as diplomats," he explained.

The Abu Sayyaf says it is fighting for a separate Muslim state in the southern Philippines. But it grabbed international headlines for its high profile kidnappings and killings of foreign tourists and Philippine citizens.

U.S. troops held a six-month anti-terrorism training mission with Philippine soldiers last year aimed at eliminating the Abu Sayyaf. The Philippine armed forces continue to pursue remnants of the group.

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