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US Intelligence Officials Visit Philippines to Assess Security


A senior U.S. politician and expert on intelligence has praised the Philippines for its efforts to fight terrorism, but warns that fight will continue. The visit by Senator Christopher Bond coincided with a low-key trip by the U.S. director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte.

Senator Christopher Bond, a member of the U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, on Thursday praised the Philippine government for its steadfast efforts against terrorism. Senator Bond said both Washington and Manila recognize the severity of the threat of worldwide terrorism.

"The cancerous terrorist movement has moved, and will continue to move, through remote areas in this part of the world as well as the Middle East," he said. "And these terrorist operations have been in the remote areas of Indonesia, the jungles of Malaysia, perhaps of Thailand. There are some in the remote areas of the Philippines."

Senator Bond warned that Jemaah Islamiyah, a group based in Indonesia, is one of the leading terrorist organizations allied with al-Qaida, and that it has established a dangerous presence in parts of the Philippines. He says it proposes to establish a "worldwide Islamo-facist caliphate."

During his trip, the senator talked with Philippine security and intelligence officials on how the United States could be of more assistance to them. He declined to reveal their suggestions because they must be discussed at closed meetings in Washington.

The senator last visited the Philippines about eight years ago and he said one of the biggest differences he noticed on this trip was the widespread security checks in Manila. He says security has clearly become a major part of life in the capital.

Manila has been hit by a number of bombings during the past few years, as the country struggles with a violent Islamic separatist movement and an insurgency led by the communist New People's Army.

Senator Bond's visit came the same week that the U.S. director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, was in town. Mr. Negroponte conferred with Philippines officials on a variety of regional security issues.

The intelligence chief, in an exclusive interview with the Philippine Star newspaper, said that the country's south had become a "focal point of terrorist and security threats," and that Jemaah Islamiyah has used the country as a sanctuary.

The bulk of the Philippines' Muslim minority lives in the south, in Mindanao province, which is one of the poorest areas in the predominantly Christian country.

Analysts say Islamic militants have capitalized on political instability and discontent in Mindanao to strengthen their ranks.

The United States has provided aid and military training to the Philippines over the past several years as Manila tries to crack down on militant groups in its territory.

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