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Philippines: Arrests Continue in Davoa Bombings - 2003-04-08


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says police have two suspects in custody for a series of deadly bombings in the southern Philippines. The announcement comes a day after police tagged five Indonesians for one of the bombings. The two suspects, both Philippine citizens, were captured Tuesday morning in the southern city of Cotabato.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who announced the arrests at a military ceremony Tuesday, said the suspects were involved in two bomb attacks carried out over the past month in the southern city of Davao.

Ms. Arroyo says one of the suspects planted the bomb last week that killed 16 people at Davao's busy port. She says both suspects were behind last month's Davao airport blast that killed 21 people and was the country's worst terror attack in more than two years.

Ms. Arroyo did not say, however, whether the men were believed part of a terrorist group.

On Monday, police said they were looking for five Indonesians linked to the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), in connection with the port bombing.

Police say the Indonesians are working with a hit squad from the Philippine Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF leaders have been criminally charged in the airport attack.

Philippine military officials believe the MILF and JI are linked. According to security experts, the goal of JI is an Islamic state in Southeast Asia, and some suspect that JI is al-Qaida's arm in the region.

President Arroyo says reliable intelligence indicates that Indonesians might have been involved in terrorism in the Philippines. She charged newly appointed military chief General Narciso Abaya with the cross-border investigation. "I am therefore directing General Abaya to work closely with the Indonesian government on this issue. I am directing him to consolidate and tighten regional vigilance."

Indonesian diplomats in Manila say they are closely coordinating with the Philippine government on this issue.

In 2002, Philippine police arrested an Indonesian man whom regional authorities say is a member of JI.

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