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Cops File Complaint in Philippines Blast

March 7, 2003

DAVAO, Philippines (AP) _ Police filed a complaint Friday against leaders of a Muslim separatist group suspected of carrying out an airport bombing that killed 21 people.

Investigators believe a 23-year-old member of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front planted the bomb that exploded Tuesday at Davao airport. The explosives went off prematurely and killed the man, officials said.

An American missionary from Iowa was among those killed in the worst terror attack in the Philippines in three years. The bombing injured more than 100 people.

Davao prosecutor Danilo Belo said he was reviewing the police complaint against the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and would decide Saturday whether to proceed with formal charges that could include murder.

Those facing possible charges include Hashim Salamat, the head of the MILF, along with his deputies Ghazali Jaafar and Al Haj Murad and spokesman Eid Kabalu.

The MILF has been fighting for Muslim self-rule in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines for more than three decades.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has proposed a peace agreement with the MILF, but the rebels have accused the government of negotiating in bad faith. In a major offensive last month, government troops overran a key MILF stronghold on Mindanao island, and the rebels responded with stepped-up attacks on army positions and explosions at power pylons and a bridge.

Local authorities said MILF rebels on Thursday blew up a bridge under construction about 559 miles south of Manila, injuring two workers.

On Friday, dozens of grieving relatives of victims held prayers at the site of the airport bombing, carrying placards that denounced the ``satanic bombing″ and called on the government to ``wipe out″ rebel groups.

The bombing occurred amid political and public debate in the Philippines over the role of U.S. troops training Filipino soldiers in counterterrorism. The United States wanted about 1,000 U.S. troops, set for deployment on southern Jolo island later this year, to be allowed into combat against the Muslim Abu Sayyaf group. But Arroyo on Wednesday ruled out a combat role, saying the Americans would only train and assist Philippine troops.

In fresh violence, police said one man was killed and two people were hurt Friday when a homemade bomb constructed from a mortar exploded prematurely in Tacurong city in Sultan Kudarat province, about 95 miles southwest of Davao.

Police said the suspected bomber, Sami Abubakar, 27, died of injuries after the bomb went off under the seat of his motorcycle. Two female high school students were also seriously injured.

Update hourly