Two men arrested for the weekend bombings in the southern Philippine city of General Santos were charged Tuesday with illegal weapons possession. Regional police commander Colonel Bartolome Baluyot says the two men, Bobby Sabilo and Mulikin Adam Ambi, received explosives training in Malaysia. Police say they are preparing murder charges against the men. The bombings killed 15 people.
Major General Roy Kyanko, the commander of the Philippine military in the General Santos area, says the men were seen in the area of one of the blasts. "They are reported by witnesses allegedly on a tricycle and seen throwing some plastic bag on a vacant lot," he said.
The militant Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf claims responsibility for the bombings and warns of more to come, but police say they are investigating the claim. There are indications the bombings might be linked to another Muslim separatist group (MNLF).
Police spokesman Colonel Baluyot says police also will investigate possible links to the Jemaah Islamiah, a regional Islamic fundamentalist group. The United States has linked Jemaah Islamiah to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network. A spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf, which Washington has also linked to al-Qaeda, says the bombings will escalate unless U.S. troops leave the Philippines immediately. American troops have been in the southern Philippines for more than two months for a training exercise with the Philippine military. Around 1,000 American soldiers are holding counter-terrorism exercises in the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Basilan, about 350 kilometers west of General Santos City. The Abu Sayyaf has earned millions of dollars kidnapping people over the last two years. They are holding an American missionary couple and a Philippine nurse they kidnapped nearly 11 months ago. Since the recent rash of bombings, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered a crackdown on terrorists, a nationwide security alert, and plans for checkpoints and curfews where needed.