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Manila Arrests Men Suspected in Deadly Bombing in 2000 - 2004-08-03

The Philippines government has captured two suspected Islamic militants accused of executing a deadly bomb attack in Manila four years ago. The men are thought to be linked to the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. Philippine army officers says the two men were key operatives in a series of bomb attacks on Manila's rail system during a national holiday on December 30, 2000. The blasts killed 22 people and injured nearly one hundred more.

Army spokesman Colonel Buenaventura Pascual says the suspects, Abdul Pata and Mamasao Naga were arrested Monday in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

"Last night they were transport here to Manila, they are under interrogation by our army intelligence," said Colonel Pascual.

The arrests highlight the complex network of ties that connect the Philippines' Muslim separatists with regional terrorist groups and even al-Qaida.

Colonel Pascual says the men were captured in territory controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Philippine's largest Muslim separatist group.

The MILF has condemned terrorism but has been accused in the past of sheltering JI members and training camps.

And the two men allegedly worked closely with senior JI bomb-makers in planning the 2000 attacks in Manila. Those attacks came just a few days after a series of church bombings in Indonesia, which authorities in Jakarta say were also the work of JI.

Colonel Pascual says papers found with the men clearly connect them to the Indonesian-based terror group.

"There are documents that were found on their possession, detailing their link with JI. We are capturing J.I. terrorists right now," he said.

JI is the largest terrorist group operating in Southeast Asia and has established ties with the al-Qaida network. It is blamed for the Bali bomb attack in Indonesia that killed 202 people two years ago. Terror experts say the group aims to create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

The Philippine army says the arrest could provide vital clues to JI's regional operations and tactics.

"The document really give details to the JI and hopefully we can see how they work here in the Philippines and their connection with other countries," said Colonel Pascual.

The U.S. military is working closely with the Philippine army to track down regional terrorists.