ABUS, AL-QAEDA TAGGED IN WEDNESDAY NIGHT ZAMBOANGA BOMBING
MANILA, October 4, 2002 (STAR) By Jaime Laude - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. tagged the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network as the perpetrators of Wednesday nightís bomb blast in Zamboanga City that killed an American Green Beret commando and two Filipino civilians.
At least 25 other people, one of them another American trooper, were wounded in the blast.
A military intelligence report to President Arroyo and the military hierarchy said the attack was staged by a "four-man urban terrorist group" of the Abu Sayyaf which has been linked to the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.
The PNPís anti-terrorism Task Force Sanlahi has also established linkage between the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda that operates in Southeast Asia.
Investigators were looking at the possibility of a suicide attack as the rider of a motorcycle where the explosives were rigged was among the fatalities. He was identified as Bernard Limba, 33, a native of Dipolog City.
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said all angles were being pursued, including that of revenge as suggested by Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Clara Lobregat.
Ebdane said the motorcycle driver has been identified as a member of the Abu Sayyaf from a sketch based on witnessesí accounts and the body.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Eduardo Purificacion said the investigators were searching houses and interviewing possible witnesses who may have seen the man who brought the bomb that apparently went off prematurely.
"We do not know where the bomb was supposed to be brought. The driver of the motorcycle loaded with the bomb stopped and was checking something in his motorcycle when the bomb exploded," Purificacion said.
The blast site is near a military arms depot and is largely populated by soldiers and their dependents who operate several businesses in the area.
Citing revelation of captured al-Qaeda leader Omar Al-Faruq, a police source said the Zamboanga blast was possibly a joint undertaking of local and foreign terrorists.
Al-Faruq, now detained in a US air force base in Bagram, Afghanistan was tagged as a prominent leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. He was arrested June 5 by intelligence operatives of the Jakarta police inside a mosque in Bogor, Indonesia.
Weeks prior to his arrest, Al-Faruq was reportedly spotted in the Zamboanga peninsula and Central Mindanao where he allegedly worked out a terrorist cell consisting of members of Muslim fundamentalist groups, specifically the Abu Sayyaf and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Intelligence sources said Al-Faruq was in the Philippines on orders of Bin Ladenís top military aides Abu Zubaydah and Ibn Al-Shaykh to organize teams that would carry out bombing missions against US targets in the Philippines.
The sources said the terrorists were also plotting bomb attacks in General Santos City.
"We believe that the Zamboanga explosion was also tackled during a meeting of the Jemaah Islamiyah leaders in their secret camp in Buluan, Maguindanao," a source said.
The Abu Sayyaf warned last week it would mount attacks on civilian and military targets in Mindanao to retaliate for the ongoing government offensive against Muslim rebels in the South.
The explosion took place even as security has been tightened ahead of an Oct. 12 Christian festival in Zamboanga City.
The Green Berets, based at Camp Enrile in Zamboanga City, were part of US contingent of about 260 American servicemen deployed in support of the ongoing "Operation Enduring Freedom" which has been training Filipino soldiers in counter-terrorism warfare.
Investigators were still trying to establish if it was a suicide attack, a first of its kind in the Philippines, or whether the powerful, nail-laden bomb went off prematurely.
The probers, among them five plainclothed Americans, swarmed over the crime site looking for clues.
The two other fatalities were identified as Green Beret Sgt. Mark Jackson and Filipino civilian Marlon Tuballa.
US army Capt. Catherine Morelle-Oliveira, spokeswoman for the US forces in Zamboanga, said Jackson and his companion were buying food from the restaurant when the explosion occurred in an open-air market.
Meanwhile, the authorities released the names of 21 wounded victims of the blast, among them five Army troopers and a policeman.
Those wounded were Army Sergeants Ernesto Lubal, Manolo Asunsion and Jamndre Epifanio, Army Corporals Roberto Mandirimot and Elsie Balascao, SPO4 Felimon Rimando, and civilians Barbara Almonares, Amelita Enriquez, Emma Bustamante, Arlyn Sanson, Archie Pagulayan, Jessie James Barber, Florina Dinglasa, Rodolfo Enriquez, Joey Saperol, Hassan Sapayana, Arlene Felix, Edwin Abrenido and Tiffany Enriquez. Defensor vows to go after terrorists Armed Forces chief Gen. Benjamin Defensor vowed to go after the perpetrators of the attack as he ordered a review of security procedures in all military camps.
"If this was the handiwork of terrorists, it only proves that they do not care about civilians, whether they get killed or maimed," Defensor said.
He said security has been tightened in all military camps.
The body of Jackson and his still unidentified fellow American soldier who was wounded in the explosion were flown out of Zamboanga to an undisclosed place.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Danilo Servando said it was possible the two victims would be flown to Kadena Air Force in Okinawa, Japan.
The attack came a week after Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, in a rare radio broadcast, called for the launching of a jihad or religious holy war against the "enemies of Islam."
Servando said Limba was temporarily residing in Zamboanga City while following up his papers for his trip to Malaysia.
Servando said the investigators do not rule out the possibility that Limba was linked or a member of a terrorist organization.
National Security Adviser Roilo Golez and an unidentified Pentagon official talked Wednesday night to discuss the implications of the bomb attack to the deployment of US troops in the country this month for another round of joint military exercises.
Defensor gave assurances that the incident would not upset the timetable for the next war games scheduled to start this month and end in June next year. ó With reports from Paolo Romero, Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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