NO LINKS TO DAVAO/COTABATO BOMBINGS -- MILF   

Cotabato, March 8, 2003 -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today denied any link with the deadly bombings in Mindanao, but said they were not worried about the government filing charges against them.

Eid Kabalu, spokesman of the MILF shrugged off the government's filing of charges against himself and other leaders for the deadly bomb blast outside the Davao City airport on Tuesday.

"We are not alarmed. We are innocent. We have been charged before and it was dropped for lack of evidence," Kabalu said in Cotabato.

Prosecutors have said Muntazer Sudang, one of the fatalities, was the man who carried the bomb in a knapsack.

Officials have said Sudang was an MILF member, citing a document recovered from him.

Kabalu however said the document was counterfeit, alleging that "the public is being conditioned by the military that Muntazer Sudang was an MILF member when in fact, he was not."

Police in nearby Tacurong town meanwhile said the MILF was also linked to a motorbike bomb that went off outside a church-run school there on Friday, killing the bomber and wounding at least two schoolgirls.

Provincial police chief Superintendent Bonfilo Dacoco said an ID card recovered from the bomber identified him as an MILF member.

Kabalu however said the alleged bomber, Sammy Abubakar, was not in the MILF roster.

He said the MILF chief Hashim Salamat had directed his forces to attack only military installations, not civilians.

Despite the new accusations, Kabalu said the MILF was still willing to hold talks with the government.

Formal peace negotiations were due to be held in Malaysia later this year but the prospects for the talks have been overshadowed by the recent surge in violence between the government and the MILF.

The MILF has been blamed for a series of bomb blasts in recent weeks.

These attacks are believed to be in retaliation for the military's capturing an MILF enclave last month, leaving more than 100 MILF fighters dead.

A smaller Muslim armed group, the Abu Sayyaf, has claimed credit for the Davao bombing but officials have largely discounted this as a diversionary tactic.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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