MANILA, Philippines – Police have captured a leader of an Al Qaeda-linked militant group that planned to use trucks laden with explosives to bomb the U.S. Embassy, the Manila stock exchange and other targets, the Philippine government said Thursday.
Abdulmukim Edris, the alleged head of the Abu Sayyaf's explosives team, told police the group had planned to use cellular telephones to detonate ammonium nitrate bombs in a series of attacks starting this month, military Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Defensor said.
Edris, who has been accused in a string of deadly bombings in the southern Philippines, was captured Tuesday in suburban Pasay city, Defensor said. He faces murder and kidnapping charges.
"We have information on what they are planning to do, and we have given the warning to possible targets," Defensor said as Edris was paraded before the media and presented to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday.
Two soldiers flanked the handcuffed suspect as he stood head bowed behind Arroyo, who held up a picture of a truck bomb that Edris had drawn.
Defensor said Edris was "implicated by his own cohorts" in at least four bombings in southern Zamboanga city last month that killed 12 people, including an American Green Beret commando, and injured more than 200 others.
The bombs exploded outside a restaurant near a military camp, at the entrance to a Catholic shrine and inside department stores in Zamboanga.
Edris acknowledged his team conducted "casing operations and prepared plans" to bomb the U.S. Embassy and other targets in metropolitan Manila "starting November 2002 onwards," the Philippine National Police said in a statement.
Defensor said Edris was trained by two Yemenis to make car bombs using cell phones and digital clocks at an Abu Sayyaf camp on southern Basilan island last year.
During his interrogation, Edris described the two Yemenis as "VIPs from Al Qaeda ," a police intelligence officer said on condition he not be identified.
Police also said the Abu Sayyaf group sent an emissary to seek financial support for terrorist attacks in the Philippines from Al Qaeda operatives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in July 2001.
"The Al Qaeda operatives agreed to provide financial support and technical expertise to the (Abu Sayyaf) group provided it shed off its bandit image and focus on conducting attacks against the local and foreign enemies of Islam in the country," the police statement said.
It said that three weeks before Sept. 11, two Al Qaeda operatives arrived on Basilan island and conducted a monthlong "special explosives training" session attended by Edris and several other Abu Sayyaf members.
Al Qaeda is thought to have ties with several Islamic militant groups across Asia, including Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, as well as Jemaah Islamiyah, which operates across the region and is suspected of carrying out the Bali bombings last month.
Defensor said Edris also was the "mastermind" of the bombing of a food court in Zamboanga in October of last year, killing six people and injuring 50 others.
He also allegedly participated in the raid on the Dos Palmas resort in May, 2001, when the Abu Sayyaf seized three Americans and 17 Filipinos at the start of a yearlong kidnapping spree in which more than 100 people were eventually abducted.