CAR BOMB MEANT FOR SEC. REYES  

Zamboanga City, Feb. 22, 2003 -- A car bomb that exploded Thursday afternoon outside the airport in Awang town, Maguindanao province was intended for Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, military sources said Friday. The Moro Islamic Front was linked to the plot.

One person was reported killed and 10 others were wounded in the explosion.

The bomb, assembled from a 61-mm mortar shell rigged to a detonator, went off shortly after 2 p.m. and destroyed five restaurants outside the airport.

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, denied his group wanted to kill Reyes.

"There is no reason to kill Reyes because we are not terrorists, but revolutionaries. This is another military propaganda," he said.

Lt. Col. Danilo Servando, public affairs chief of the DND, said Reyes was scheduled to arrive at the airport at around 8:30 a.m. Thursday and was to return to Manila at around 2:30 p.m., the time when the bomb exploded.

He said Reyes was scheduled to attend the launching of the ARMM convergence program in Barira, Maguindanao but was postponed due to the recent fighting in Pikit, North Cotabato.

Asked he if was indeed the target of the bomb attack, Reyes, in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, said: "I don't know, I don't know."

Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya, Southern Command chief, the reports are "not true and pure speculation."

Abaya also downplayed reports that Thursday's bombing in Kabacan, North Cotabato was a suicide bombing.

"Let us not sensationalize this and say it's a suicide bombing. The courier could be planning to plant to bomb but due to lack of experience it prematurely exploded," he said.

A ranking police official in Central Mindanao belied reports the MILF is employing suicide bombers to carry out bomb attacks.

Senior Supt. Nestor Sanares, Central Mindanao police director, said Emran Mamalugi, the suspected bomber killed in Thursday's explosion in Kabacan, accidentally exploded the improvised bomb.

Sanares said he will hold liable the local police official who said that it was a suicide bombing attack. (Malaya)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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