Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Abu Sayyaf bomb threat unsettles Filipino churches


Churches in the Philippines tightened security yesterday after a warning was received that al-Qaeda-aligned extremists were planning bomb attacks in revenge for the killing of their leaders in a prison uprising, officials said.

Additional staff, including security guards, had been posted at major churches to check on suspicious people, said Monsignor Hernando Coronel, secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Coronel said churches would have only one exit and entry point so that people could be checked, in response to the warning issued by police on Friday that the Abu Sayyaf network was planning new attacks.

"Take proper precautions just to be on the safe side," Coronel told the faithful. "Let us also pray for peace and reconciliation in this country."

Philippine police warned the Abu Sayyaf may bomb churches after 22 of its suspected members, including some senior leaders, were killed in a failed jailbreak that turned into a prison uprising on Tuesday.

Police said seven suspected terrorists were ordered to carry out the attacks in retaliation for the deaths during the jail revolt.

The seven included a member of Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah network, Abu Yasin, and men who had trained with explosives, raising fears of new bomb attacks, the police added.

A massive manhunt had been launched for the seven men, national police chief, Director-General Arturo Lomibao, said in a statement.

Abu Sayyaf has been linked by both Washington and Manila to the al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.

It has carried out the worst terrorist attacks in the country, including the bombing of a ferry in February last year that left more than 100 dead.

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