PARANG COUNCILOR DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN JANUARY 4 BOMBING

PARANG, MAGUINDANAO, January 24, 2004 (STAR) Iím a fisherman, not a bomber."

This was what Abdul "Henry" Katab, a re-electionist councilor here, said after he was tagged as the mastermind of the bombing of a basketball game here last Jan. 4 which killed 22 people.

Katab urged the police and the military to extensively investigate the incident to identify the real culprits.

"Im just an ordinary fisherman, not a bomber. Incidentally, Iím identified with the rivals of our mayor who are now being unduly dragged into the picture to implicate them in the bombing," Katab told The Star in an interview in Barangay Nituan here.

Among the 71 people wounded in the bombing was Parang Mayor Vivencio Bataga, a retired Army colonel, whose re-election is being contested by his bitter political adversary, businessman Talib Abo.

Katab asserted that the mayor has been using the incident as a pretext to pin down his political adversaries.

"I know that our mayor is aware of my real personality. Why am I being pinned down? I was somewhere else when a bomb exploded inside our municipal gymnasium," Katab said in Filipino.

Katab said there are witnesses willing to testify that he was out of town when the incident occurred.

Local officials in Buluan said Ahmad was with his relatives in Tupi, South Cotabato last Jan. 4 attending a traditional congregational prayer for a dead relative.

Katab, a resident of Buluan, a town 130 kilometers north of this municipality, said he does not personally know Suharto Ahmad, his alleged cohort in perpetrating the bombing.

"I can hardly provide my ten children with one decent meal a day since I was named the mastermind in the bombing. I have not received my salary as municipal councilor since," Katab said. ó John Unson


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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