U.S. Airlines Warned Of Bomb Threat Against Them
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ U.S. airlines that fly over the Pacific are taking precautions after Filipino authorities warned of a possible bombing attempt against them during Pope John Paul II’s visit this week.
The pope arrives here Thursday for a five-day visit before heading on to Papua New Guinea, Australia and Sri Lanka.
In Washington, the State Department confirmed receiving information from Philippine officials on the threats. In a statement Tuesday, it said U.S. officials had not confirmed the reports but both the U.S. government and the airlines ``have implemented special security measures that we believe are sufficient to counter the threats.″
No specific airlines were mentioned and details of the security measures were not released.
U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the warning was considered serious. They believed it was linked to last Friday’s arrest of a Middle Eastern man in a Manila apartment that overlooks a street the pope will use.
President Fidel Ramos today confirmed the arrest of not only one but ``a couple of people″ with ``incriminating evidence,″ which he did not detail.
Radio station DZXL said a Pakistani man was arrested after ``bomb materials″ were found in the apartment. The police raid came after smoke billowed from the sixth-floor room, said building attendant Julio Solis, who added that police also seized materials including metal pipes and chemicals.
Security has been tightened in days leading up to the papal visit.
Police found what appeared to be a bomb today at a police post in the densely populated Quiapo district about half a mile from the presidential palace. Officer Lorenzo Molato said the device turned out to be three large batteries tied with electric wires to a digital watch.
Last Friday, eight Iranians were refused entry at Manila airport when police became suspicious of their travel documents.
Philippine officials also fear a Muslim extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, may try to kidnap or kill Catholic priests in the southern Philippines to embarrass the government during the papal visit.
On Dec. 11, a bomb exploded on a Philippine Airlines jet en route to Tokyo, killing one person and injuring five others. A caller who said he was from Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility. The Boeing 747 landed safely in Okinawa.