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Suspected Leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah Group Charged in Philippines

Authorities in the Philippines say they have filed criminal charges against two suspected leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah group for helping to buy explosives to be used in attacks earlier this year in Singapore. The U.S. State Department this week designated the group as a terrorist organization. The explosives were discovered after Singapore dismantled a plot to attack Western and government installations in the island nation.

Philippine prosecutor Roberto Lao Friday announced the indictment of Fais bin Abu Bakar Bafana and Riduan Isamudin, also known as Hambali. The two are charged with conspiring to procure more than one ton of TNT explosives, which were discovered earlier this year in General Santos City, on the southern island of Mindanao.

Mr. Lao told VOA that the charges are based on information from Fathur al-Ghozi, an Indonesian who is serving a six-year prison term in the Philippines for his involvement in the Singapore bomb plot.

"According to al-Ghozi, these Malaysians, Bafana and Hambali, provided him with funds for the purchase of explosives to be utilized in bombing Israeli and U.S. interests in Singapore," he explained.

Mr. Bafana was detained in a crackdown in Singapore earlier this year, which led to al-Ghozi's arrest. Mr. Hambali is still at large. He is suspected of masterminding dozens of bomb attacks in the region in recent years. Mr. Lao says that for the first time, al-Ghozi has admitted that he was recruited by Jemaah Islamiyah to buy the explosives, and has implicated Mr. Hambali in the Singapore plot. Mr. Lao says the latest revelations from the Philippines will add to the knowledge about the Jemaah Islamiyah.

"It exposed the identities of the Malaysian nationals, the terrorists who are members of Jemaah Islamiyah, and I believe being aware of that, then the proper authorities will be more circumspect and very rigid in the examination of foreigners coming, especially those from the Middle East and from the other Southeast Asian countries," Mr. Lao said.

Singapore and Malaysia have arrested scores of suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, which they say has close ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network. They say the leader is an Indonesian religious teacher named Abu Bakar Bashir, who is currently under arrest in a hospital in central Indonesia. Mr. Bashir denies the charge. Indonesian police say they will question him after he has regained his health.

The Indonesian police also said Friday that they would be taking 10 Pakistanis to Bali to question them about the October 12 bombing on that resort island. A police official said the 10 men had already been questioned in the immediate aftermath of the attack, which killed more than 180 people. Jemaah Islamiyah has been named as a possible suspect in this bombing, but has not been formally accused.

A confessed member of al-Qaida who was arrested in Indonesia last June and handed over to U.S. authorities, Omar al-Faruq, has also said Mr. Bahir is the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. He says the group, with support from al-Qaida, planned a series of terrorist attacks and political assassinations in Southeast Asia.