5 AL QAEDA TERRORISTS IN RP -- DUTERTEDavao City, April 7, 2003 -- Mayor Rodrigo Duterte singled out a shadowy outfit linked to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as the group behind last week's deadly blast at the Sasa wharf that killed 16 people. "It is still the SUTAG (Special Urban Terrorist Action Group)," Duterte told local television. He said the group operated independently from the central committee of the MILF but was still part of the organization. Duterte said he expected more attacks by the MILF. Wednesday's attack came barely a month after the March 4 bombing of the Davao international airport that killed 22 people. Military officials were not immediately available to comment on the mayor's interview. Duterte as well as security officials have previously linked the MILF to the airport blast. The MILF has denied any involvement in both attacks. "The SUTAG is the al Qaeda cell in Southern Philippines," Duterte said, referring to the group's connections with Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian Islamic group linked by Western intelligence agencies to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and blamed for deadly bombings in Indonesia's Bali in October. The mayor did not offer any specific evidence. Duterte said the MILF's terrorist group has been involved in 20 bombings in Mindanao this year. "I expect more bombs and let's prepare for it," he said, adding that three companies of special forces and a battalion of Marines will be deployed in the city. Police has said hardliners in the MILF, with about 12,000 members, were trying to scuttle attempts to rekindle peace talks. The two sides last week held preparatory talks for the resumption of the peace negotiations and President Arroyo told reporters on Saturday she was confident the dialogue would continue. The government has issued arrest warrants for MILF leaders, including chairman Hashim Salamat, for the airport bombing. In another interview, Duterte warned that 5 Al Qaeda terrorists are now in the Philippines to conduct retaliatory attacks in reaction to the Philippines' support of the US attack on Iran.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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