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Philippines Arrests Suspected Bomber

July 18, 2002

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A man suspected of planning to carry out a suicide bombing has been arrested in the Philippines based on information provided by the U.S. government, officials said Thursday. The arrest came as police in Indonesia warned of a new Islamic terror group sprouting in Asia.

Ahmad Abdellatif Jubran, said to be a Jordanian, was arrested by immigration and anti-terrorism agents in Manila on May 16, according to Philippine officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Several months ago, U.S. authorities informed Philippine authorities that Jubran was a suspected would-be suicide bomber apparently preparing for an attack outside the Philippines, the officials told The Associated Press.

Prior to his arrest, Jubran informed his Philippine wife that ``he was leaving the Philippines to be with the martyrs″ in messages monitored by Philippine authorities, the officials said.

He is now under investigation and being held under heavy guard for immigration violations in a counterterrorism task force detention cell at national police headquarters in Manila, the officials said.

Jubran, who has largely been based in the southern port city of Davao since the early 1990s, was implicated in the 1993 bombing of the San Pedro Roman Catholic church there that killed seven worshippers and wounded 130. But officials said he later was cleared for lack of evidence.

Philippine authorities have resorted to charging suspected foreign terrorists with immigration violations to hold them in the absence of pending anti-terrorism legislation.

In Indonesia on Thursday, the country’s police chief said a new Islamic terrorist group has emerged in Southeast Asia and is operating in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Police Chief Gen. Da’i Bachtiar said some members of the new group, called Nusantara, have been arrested but he declined to say where. Nusantara is the Indonesian word for archipelago.

``The existence of this group was revealed as a result of cooperation with police from neighboring countries,″ Bachtiar told reporters in Jakarta.

He said police were investigating the size and scope of the new group. However, the country’s vice president, Hamzah Haz, said he was ``sure there is no terrorist network″ in Indonesia.

The Indonesia government has consistently rejected accusations by the international community that it has failed to arrest Islamic militants operating on its soil.

Neighboring Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines have detained dozens of suspected militants, several of them Indonesians. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has arrested a few suspects.

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