SUSPECT CONFESSES TO DAVAO BOMBING

Zamboanga City, April 10, 2003 --- The Philippine military has tagged the 
separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as behind the two deadly 
bomb attacks on a seaport and an international airport in the southern port 
city of Davao.

Police earlier said the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya was behind 
the attacks in Sasa wharf Apr. 2 that killed 17 people and the airport 
bombing Mar. 4 that left 22 people dead. Dozens were injured in the two 
attacks, also blamed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the al Qaeda 
network.

"As far as we are concerned, the MILF is behind is behind the attacks," 
said the spokesman of military forces in the southern Philippines Lt. Col. 
Daniel Lucero.

Lucero said five MILF members linked to the two attacks have been captured 
Tuesday by security forces in separates raids in Cotabato City in 
Maguindanao province, a traditional stronghold of Muslim rebels fighting 
for independence in the southern Philippines.

Radio reports on Tuesday have quoted President Gloria Arroyo and new Armed 
Forces chief Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya as saying that two Indonesian terror 
suspects were also captured in Cotabato City, but they turned out to be 
Filipinos.

Lucero said the five captured MILF rebels -- Ismael Akmad alias Tutuh; Tobi 
Bagundang alias Tohami Urong and Jobi Bagundang Fermin; Ismael Osok alias 
Esmael Usop Mamalamas; Teng Quidar alias Teng Edar and Jimmy Baloghog alias 
Jimi Balolao -- are currently undergoing investigation. He said all 
suspects are alleged members of the MILF's special operations group, a unit 
that specialized in terrorism. He gave no details about the interrogation.

But military sources in Cotabato City said Akmad, 26, admitted detonating 
the bomb he planted outside the terminal building of the Davao City 
International Airport and that his group was also behind the attack in Sasa 
wharf. He said they hired a taxi to bring the explosive to the airport 
after transporting the bomb by bus from Pikit town in North Cotabato 
province to Davao City.

Akmad, a native of Kabuntalan town in Maguindanao, has claimed he is a 
member of the MILF's special operations group under the Bangamoro Islamic 
Armed Forces' 104th Brigade headed by Taps Juhani. Juhani's group operates 
in the cities of Davao, General Santos, Cotabato and the provinces of South 
and North Cotabato, and Maguindanao, sources said.

Sources said two senior MILF rebel leaders in North Cotabato's Pikit town 
identified only as Commanders Bayan and Abiden have paid him P50,000 ($961) 
as reward for the airport attack. Akmad also named other members of his 
group who are still at large as Dennis Samana, Jimboy and Tong -- all MILF 
fighters.

Akmad told interrogators that they had charted a van to transport the bomb, 
concealed in a black bag, they planted on a food stall outside the 
passenger terminal in Sasa wharf. After detonating the bomb, akmad said his 
group went back to Cotabato City, but Tong returned to his hideout in 
Bangkerohan district in Davao City. Akmad said he was given P 30,000 ($576) 
by the MILF for bombing the seaport, sources said.

The MILF has strongly denied Wednesday government accusations its 
guerrillas were involved in the two attacks. A rebel spokesperson Eid 
Kabalu also said those five arrested were innocent civilians, but he was 
quick to say that Akmad and Bagundang are drug pushers operating in 
Cotabato City.

Kabalu also denied that two Muslim men arrested Monday in General Santos 
City are MILF members. Police arrested the duo Altaps Samadalan and 
Mustapha Panagas in Fatima village after they had been caught illegally 
transporting more than 100 kilos of ammonium nitrate used in manufacturing 
bombs.

The two arrested after police received intelligence reports saying MILF 
rebels would smuggle explosives into the predominantly Christian city from 
Pikit town in North Cotabato province to bomb civilian and government 
targets in the southern Philippines, the military said.

The military said the two arrested rebels are members of the MILF's special 
operations group. The men said they would use the chemicals for blast 
fishing, but the police also seized from them 20 litres of gasoline and 
about a kilo of yellow chemical powder, believed to be explosives.

Police and military are currently interrogating the rebels in General 
Santos City to find out if they have links with the group of Akmad.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte have tagged the MILF, the Jemaah Islamiya 
and the al Qaeda network as behind the seaport attack. He said the MILF's 
SUTAG or the Special Urban Terrorist Action Group is responsible in the 
blast. He said some of its members are from the Abu Sayyaf group.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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