SUICIDE BOMBERS REPORTED; MINDANAO ON RED ALERT  

Manila, Feb. 25, 2003 -- Gen. Dionisio Santiago, AFP chief, last Sunday raised the red alert in Mindanao following reports that secessionist rebels and lawless elements are consolidating their forces in preparation for large-scale attacks.

"There have been reported sightings of pockets of MILF forces in Central and Northern Mindanao. To us, this is an indication that they are preparing for something," Lt. Col. Michael Beverlyn Manquiquis, AFP public information chief, said.

He said at least 50,000 troops are detailed at the Southern Command under Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya.

Manquiquis said the MILF could be planning to harass military detachments, sabotage power facilities and sow terror through bombing.

Edgardo Aglipay, deputy PNP chief for operations, in his capacity as over-all police supervisor in Mindanao, also placed the Cotabato PNP under heightened alert in anticipation of MILF attacks.

His directive came amid reports that some 50 MILF members will conduct suicide bombings in retaliation for the capture of Buliok Complex in Pikit town, North Cotabato.

"Yesterday (Sunday) may information sa Mindanao na sa Cotabato specifically magko-conduct ng parang operation ang MILF, mga terrorist operation sa Mindanao," Aglipay said.

Security forces were deployed Monday in Zamboanga city after military intelligence reports said Abu Sayyaf bandits would attack civilian and US targets.

Reports said the Abu Sayyaf would bomb churches and malls and could be also target US soldiers training Filipino troops inside an Army base in Malagutay village located near the city.

A security official who asked not to be identified said the Abu Sayyaf is likely to launch attacks in the city proper in retaliation for the death of ASG senior leader Mujib Susukan last Feb. 18 in Talipao, Sulu.

Joint counterterrorism training exercises, called Project Bayanihan, began Sunday in Zamboanga City under tight security.

The Armed Forces is seriously taking the reported threat to the safety of US forces taking part in the counter-terrorism exercises, Gen. Dionisio Santiago, AFP chief, said.

Even ARMM Gov. Parouk Hussin confirmed the threats to US forces once they step into Sulu.

Reports said some Sulu residents are out to avenge the killing of over a thousand Tausugs in Bud Dahu in Patikul by US troops led by Gen. Leonard Wood in 1906.

There were also reports that Abu Sayyaf is out to "spring a surprise" on the American forces.

Santiago said they have enough troops in charge of the security for the American forces.

"There will always be threats but what we could do is to enhance our intelligence monitoring. We'll be more vigilant and we would like the public to support us by giving us information," he said.

Three persons including a five-year-old boy were killed and four others were wounded when suspected MILF rebels attacked an army outpost in Talitay town, Maguindanao Friday night.

Guerrillas also attacked an army unit Saturday in Buldon town,Maguindanao. There were no reports of casualties.

In Sultan Kudarat, police arrested on Sunday an MILF member in connection with the New Year's Eve bombing in the town plaza of Tacurong city that left 11 dead and 34 wounded.

Senior Supt. Nestor Sanares, Central Mindanao police director, said Makaliden Uling alias Commander Moks admitted his role in the bombing.

Uling identified his accomplices as a certain Toks and Bong, who he said are MILF members.

Police said Uling's group was about to carry out attacks during the Kalilangan Festival in General Santos City scheduled on Thursday. (Malaya)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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