MILF HEAD GAVE ORDER TO BOMB DAVAO -- GOVT OFFICIAL   

Manila, March 6, 2003 -- The head of the government's Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) claims the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Hashim Salamat, had given a coded directive that directly ordered his men to bomb the Davao City international airport.

OMA Director Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan said Salamat had also given the 'go-signal' to his men to attack other key targets and wreak havoc on Christian communities to hurt the Philippine government and force it to negotiate with them.

Ampatuan told the STAR that this coded message, which was broadcast in Cotabato City, had ordered mujahideen to hit the government at its weakest point, citing Christian communites and the government as its enemies.

Ampatuan added that the MILF's attack was to cow the government to force it to ease pressure on MILF strongholds, the current target of military offensives.

He discounted the admission by an Abu Sayyaf official claiming responsibility for the bombing as a means to create an atmosphere of doubt and remove any idea that the MILF was involved in the terrorist act.

"The MILF wants to sow terror and fear so that they will have a strong bargaining power and dictates the governent their terms in the peace process," the OMA chief said.

Ampatuan pointed out that the MILF's official denial was meant to project the image that the seccessionist rebel group was suing for peace.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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