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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-323447 Philippines Terror
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=03/23/05

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PHILIPPINES TERROR

NUMBER=2-323447

BYLINE=HEDA BAYRON

DATELINE=HONG KONG

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

HEADLINE: Philippine Military Captures Indonesian Terrorist Suspect

INTRO: An Indonesian terrorist suspect says the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah has been training in the Philippines since 2000. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong, the confession has fueled concern that the Philippines has become a major training ground for Islamic militants.

TEXT: The Philippine military says the arrest last week of Indonesian terrorist suspect, Rohmat, is a major blow to the activities of Jemaah Islamiyah in the country.

Mr. Rohmat, who was detained in the southern island of Mindanao, told reporters on Wednesday that he was a member of the regional terror network. He said that he came to the Philippines with several other Indonesian J.I. members in 2000 for training at jungle camps run by local Muslim militant groups. Mr. Rohmat, who is also known as Zaki, claimed that at least 23 Indonesian J.I. members were still in the country.

Philippine military officials assert that Mr. Rohmat was J.I.'s liaison officer to Abu Sayyaf, or A.S.G., and they claim he was involved in a series of bombings that rocked Manila and two other cities last month.

Lieutenant Colonel Buenaventura Pascual says the link between Abu Sayyaf - the Philippines' most violent Islamic militant group - and J.I. is now clear.

/// ROHMAT ACT ///

"In 2000, the J.I. came to Mindanao using the back door of the Philippines and linked with the Abu Sayyaf group. The arrested Zaki said that he was with Khadaffy Janjalani, the A.S.G. top leader and Abu Sulaiman, the A.S.G. spokesman, a few minutes (before) he was arrested."

/// END ACT ///

J.I. aims to create a pan-Islamic state across several Southeast Asian nations and has been blamed for deadly bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines. Experts say J.I. has been trying to forge links with other militant groups in the region to pursue that goal.

The Philippines is predominantly Christian. But it has a large Muslim population in the south and several Islamic rebel groups operate there.

The authorities have long suspected that Indonesian militants have been training in the south and terror experts believe the Philippines has become a major training ground for J.I. But Colonel Pascual says it has been difficult to detect Indonesian militants because they blend in easily with the local population.

/// REST OPT ///

Also on Wednesday, the military said it had foiled a plot by Abu Sayyaf to carry out bombings during the coming Easter celebrations. Police arrested a man in Manila and seized eight sacks of explosives from his residence.

Security has been heightened nationwide this week, when thousands of people travel to the provinces for the Easter break. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/HB/LD



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