SUSPECT IN COTABATO AIRPORT BOMBING ARRESTED

Cotabato City, July 18, 2003 By JOHN UNSON (Star) Police arrested here the other day one of at least three suspects in the Feb. 22 bombing of the Cotabato airport that wounded 14 people and triggered a fire that gutted 10 commercial establishments.

The suspect, Norodin Zacaria, alias Norodin Samad, was cornered by combined elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and local policemen in a slum area at the city’s Lugay-Lugay district, a known lair of lawless elements.

Senior Superintendent Alberto Salvo, CIDG-ARMM chief, said Zacaria did not resist arrest. He yielded a caliber .38 Smith and Wesson revolver and fragmentation grenades.

Salvo said they initially intended to merely raid Zacaria’s house for any firearms and explosives after his neighbors expressed suspicions that he might have links with criminal gangs in Central Mindanao.

While undergoing interrogation, investigators found Zacaria resembling the cartographic sketch of a suspect in the Cotabato airport bombing, the one believed to have brought a car packed with some 25 kilos of explosives near the airport’s terminal building.

The blast occurred exactly a week after the Buliok Complex, a well-fortified enclave of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at the boundary of Pagalungan, Maguindanao and Pikit, North Cotabato, fell to military control after a four-day offensive.

Military intelligence sources confirmed that Zacaria has links with secessionist forces in nearby Maguindanao towns.

Religious leaders in Maguindanao’s Kabuntalan town, where combatants of the 6th Infantry Division found three makeshift bomb-making facilities of Moro rebels last month, have confirmed that Zacaria frequently visited rebel enclaves in their town.

"We are now trying to validate his involvement in the recent wave of bombings in Mindanao. This process may take some time because he (Zacaria) is not yet fully cooperating with our investigators," Salvo said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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