San Juan, Batangas, July 21, 2003 By Arnell Ozaeta (Star) Law enforcers on the hunt for a fugitive bomber found two truckloads of bombing materials instead.

In two separate operations, police and military agents on a manhunt for Jemaah Islamiyah bomber Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi and two members of the Abu Sayyaf, seized about 160 sacks of ammonium nitrate estimated to be worth P800,000 in San Juan, Batangas last Saturday.

Ammonium nitrate, mainly used as fertilizer by farmers, is a major ingredient in explosives, said Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal, Philippine National Police (PNP) director for Calabarzon.

Reports reaching the office of Chief Superintendent George Aliño, head of the PNP Maritime Group, said joint elements of the 401st Maritime Group, the San Juan police and military intelligence personnel initially intercepted about 60 sacks of ammonium nitrate at around 2 p.m. last Saturday at a checkpoint in the vicinity of Santillan River.

"The joint elements, led by Chief Inspector Aniceto Malapitan, were conducting the operations in connection with the escape of Al-Ghozi," Aliño said in his report to PNP chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

Malapitan, chief of the 401st Maritime Group, identified the suspects as Romeo Chuatingco, 58, the owner of the Isuzu Elf truck used to transport the ammonium nitrate; and his workers Ramon Rosales, 35; Edwin Delimios, 34; and Wendel Lanto, 29. All of them are from Paracale, Camarines Norte.

The suspects were not able to provide documents to account for the ammonium nitrate, which was packed in 60 sacks meant for animal feed and concealed under styropore boxes.

At 11 p.m. of the same day, the same team seized 100 sacks of ammonium nitrate hidden under loads of vegetables on board a six-wheeler truck. They arrested Alex Valenteros, and his workers Bocalan Gabiosa; Crispin de Asis, 29; and Aldin Morillo, 29. All of them are residents of Northern Samar.

Valenteros had rented the truck, which was owned and operated by a certain Benjamin Cabacaba of Guinan, Eastern Samar.

Both vehicles reportedly came from Taysan, Batangas and were en route to Paracale, Camarines Norte and Alen, Northern Samar, respectively.

A statement issued by the PNP Maritime Group, however, said the two vehicles were bound for Bicol.

The 160 sacks of ammonium nitrate have been placed under the custody of the 401st Maritime Police station in Batangas City pending the filing of appropriate charges.

It was not immediately clear what the suspects intended to do with the chemicals. — With Christina Mendez, AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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