Report: Attack Plots in Philippines
MANILA, Philippines – Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda have plotted attacks on U.S. and British consulates, hotels, a mall and other targets across the country, according to a confidential Philippines government report reviewed Thursday by The Associated Press.
The report, which was prepared in March, contains sketchy details of bombing, kidnapping and assassination plots that Philippine intelligence agencies say are linked to the Abu Sayyaf (search) extremist group and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (search).
Some of the attacks were intended to be staged by Filipino militants trained by Al Qaeda's regional ally, Jemmah Islamiyah (search), the report said.
Abu Sayyaf members have been battling government troops in the southern Philippines, and the group has been blamed for bombings and other terror attacks in recent years, including two explosions in the southern port of Zamboanga that wounded 26 people late Wednesday.
Two other southern cities mentioned as targets in the report, Cotabato and Koronadal, were hit by bombings that wounded four people July 30. Abu Sayyaf also was blamed for those blasts.
The MILF's leaders have been engaged in peace talks with the government since 1997 and spokesman Eid Kabalu denied the group was planning any attacks.
"That's an invention," Kabalu told AP. "The peace talks have not been cut and there is a cease-fire in place."
The report said the terror attacks being plotted by Abu Sayyaf were intended to project strength after setbacks in battles with government troops.
Among attacks blamed on Abu Sayyaf were three almost-simultaneous Feb. 14 bombings that killed eight people and wounded more than 120 in Manila and the southern cities of General Santos and Davao. The report said those bombings bolstered concerns that Jemaah Islamiyah is operating in the Philippines and co-ordinating with local militants.
"The JI fund support for terrorist operations remains unhampered despite the neutralization of key financiers in previous years," the report said.
Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Sulaiman planned car bombings in Manila's business district, military and police camps in the capital and sites in Davao, the report said. Two Abu Sayyaf would-be suicide bombers were waiting to acquire "luxury cars" to use in the attacks, it said.
Ferries serving the southern Mindanao region and Manila also are Abu Sayyaf targets, the report said.
The report said the MILF's special operations group, whose members have been linked in the past to Jemaah Islamiyah, plotted to bomb U.S. and British consulates, a commuter train, hotels and a mall in the capital on unspecified dates.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search)'s national security adviser, Norberto Gonzales, said terror plots may have been delayed or thwarted by U.S.-backed military offensives that have kept Abu Sayyaf guerrillas on the run, tighter immigration watches and the strengthening of security at potential targets.
Gonzales also said government offensives against local militants may have prompted Jemaah Islamiyah to plan to send about 10 Indonesians for possible suicide bombing missions in the Philippines. Previously, foreign militants have relied on local insurgents to carry out attacks, he said.
At least two of the 10 Indonesian militants may have already reached here, he told reporters.
"We are beginning to see a new development," he said.