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Philippine Police Arrest Terror Suspects on Eve of Inauguration - 2004-06-29

Police in the Philippines have arrested at least four suspected terrorists on the eve of the inauguration of President Gloria Arroyo. Police seized explosives, a notebook containing bomb-making instructions and other materials in an early morning raid Tuesday in suburban Manila.

Authorities say the men are linked to the regional terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, and were planning to disrupt Wednesday's inauguration of President Gloria Arroyo.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lucero says security has been tightened in the capital and in the central city of Cebu, where the inauguration will take place. "We are utilizing all our existing forces here in Metro Manila," he says. "While in Cebu we have sent specialized units to augment the forces there, to heighten our security measures."

The head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Thomas Fargo, who will attend the inauguration, expressed concern over Jemmah Islamiyah's continued presence in parts of the southern Philippines - where local Muslim rebels are believed to be training JI militants.

The al-Qaida linked JI wants to form a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. It has been responsible for several bombings, including the devastating Bali attacks in 2002.

On Monday, the United States gave four million dollars in intelligence aid to the Philippines on top of more than $100 million in anti-terror assistance pledged by President Bush last year.

President Arroyo has been a staunch supporter in the war against terror, and has vowed to continue anti-terrorism efforts in her new six-year term.

Police are also bracing for possible protests by opposition groups, who claim Ms. Arroyo cheated in last month's election. Ms. Arroyo defeated her closest rival, actor Fernando Poe Junior, by a slim margin.