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Philippines Declares Jemaah Islamiyah Top Security Threat

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo says the Southeast Asian terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, is now the country's top security threat.

President Gloria Arroyo says more military and police resources are now being deployed to hunt down members of the regional terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah, operating in the Philippines.

Ms. Arroyo made the announcement Friday after a series of arrests of JI operatives in the southern Philippines.

"Recent events show that their sinister plans are both deadly and far ranging," she said.

JI is considered the region's link to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

President Arroyo says JI is a bigger threat than several of the Muslim separatist groups that have been fighting in the south for decades.

Manila has been working with neighboring countries and the United States in eliminating JI - which aims to establish a pan-Islamic state in much of Southeast Asia.

JI is largely based in Indonesia and is responsible for a number of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Philippines, along with Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have arrested and convicted scores of JI operatives this past year.

Earlier month, the Philippines captured Taufek Refke - an Indonesian suspected to be JI's finance chief in the Philippines. JI's suspected explosives expert, Indonesian Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi, was shot dead last week after escaping a Manila prison in July.

Philippine military officials say JI members received training from Muslim insurgents on the island of Mindanao. They say there are at least 30 JI members hiding in the country.

President Arroyo Friday again warned the local Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, against having ties with JI. The group is currently in talks with the government toward a final peace deal that would end 30 years of violent conflict in the southern Philippines.