Indonesians, Filipinos convicted in airport blast
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine court convicted two Indonesians and three Filipino militants of detonating a bomb that killed a soldier and wounded several bystanders at a southern airport in 2003, officials said Tuesday.
The handcuffed militants yelled “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” after a court clerk read out the verdict and life in prison sentences each received in suburban Pasig city Monday for the attack in front of the Awang domestic airport in Maguindanao province, senior state prosecutor Aristotle Reyes said.
Three Filipino militants were acquitted and the convictions could be appealed, he said.
“The fight against terrorism is long and difficult and it continues,” Reyes told The Associated Press, saying such threats were a concern especially in the southern Philippines, scene of decades-long insurrections by minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Indonesians Taufiq Rifqi and Zulkifli, who belonged to the Jemaah Islamiyah network, worked with Filipinos Dino Amor Pareja, Pio de Vera and Feliciano de los Reyes to bomb government offices and installations in 2003 in an effort to sabotage peace talks between the government and the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebel group, clerk of court Jinky Sembrano said.
Only eight of 15 militants, who were believed to be involved in the bombing, were tried because the others remained at large or managed to escape from jail.
One Filipino turned state witness and provided crucial insights into the terror plot, Sembrano said, adding two wounded bystanders also testified against the attackers.
The militants used a timer to detonate the bomb, which was fitted in the gas tank of a van that they parked in front of a row of restaurants and offices at the airport. The Indonesians bought the van and used unexploded military ordnance to make the bomb with help from their Filipino comrades, Sembrano said, citing accounts by the witnesses.
The convicted Filipino militants were linked to either the small-but-violent Abu Sayyaf and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, a group of Islamic converts.
Abu Sayyaf has been crippled by Philippine offensives but remains a threat in the south, where its militants have turned mainly to kidnappings for ransom and other acts of banditry, the military says.