Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Manila concerned about Indonesian suicide bombers


Ten suicide attackers from Indonesia are suspected of entering the Philippines and could be trying to acquire explosives for attacks in the country, the national security adviser and a news report said yesterday.

Information on the threat was passed to the Philippine government by Indonesian security officials who accompanied President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a visit to Manila last June, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said. At least one other Asian country has issued the same warning, he added, without identifying which one.

"We were informed that up to 10 Indonesians may have crossed the border and are now in the country," said Gonzales. "There is an effort to acquire materials and position personnel."

Gonzales' latest statement left room for doubt, unlike a similar warning he issued last month that "we know that there are suicide bombers now in the Philippines."

Earlier, Gonzales told ABS-CBN television that metro Manila could be a target. "There are about 10 Indonesian suicide bombers that are in the country today, and we're of course after them," he said.

Philippine authorities have identified some of the possible attackers, Gonzales told reporters.

A government task force has been created to thwart possible attacks and capture the foreign militants, he said.

The Philippines has been hit by major terror strikes, including the bombing of a ferry that killed more than 100 people last year.

Gonzales expressed concern that a political crisis battering Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government could distract authorities from anti-terrorism efforts.

Arroyo stands accused of violating the constitution, betraying public trust, corruption and bribery. An impeachment complaint against her will be deliberated by the House Committee on Justice this week. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Gonzales acknowledged that some might believe that the recent terrorism warnings from the government were being raised to divert the public's attention from the raging political crisis.

But he added: "What we want to relay to the public is that this is a very serious threat and we can't let our guards down. The only effective measure against this is to capture the perpetrators before they do something."

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