Friday, October 22, 2004

Plot to Bomb U.S. Embassy in Manila Disrupted

A plot to bomb the U.S. embassy in Manila was disrupted on Thursday with the arrest of three militant members of a break-away faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with links to Jema'ah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian terror group with ties to Al-Qaida.

The three were alleged to be plotting to attack the embassy using a bomb triggered by a cell phone. The suspects were identified as Abdul Manap Mentang and his live-in partner Monwara Usop, and Mursid Mubpon a.k.a. Guinaid Daud and Double M. These three were also accused of carrying out the 2003 bomb attacks at the Davao City airport that killed 23 and wounded 127, and at the Sasa wharf where 19 were killed and 39 wounded.

Authorities said Usop and Mubpon cased the U.S. embassy on September 23, 2004. Mubpon was tasked with the assignment of designing the bomb-triggering mechanism using a cell phone. Mubpon confessed to being a member of an MILF elite group and a demolitions expert trained by JI.

Mentang also admitted being an MILF member and part of a group of the MILF trained at Camp Hudaybuyah in Butig, Lanao Del Sur in basic demolition for urban terrorism by JI leader identified only as Zulkifli (who was arrested by the authorities in Malaysia late last year). Mentang admitted to assembling bombs used at the Davao airport and Tagum City Hall on March 4, 2003, and also at the Sas wharf on April 2 of the same year. Mentang also claimed that Zulkifli had ordered the bombings, provided the targets and instructed him to get the TNT from Abdul Jabidi (alias Bedz).

Mentang said it was Jabidi who had provided him with the explosives used in the bombings of Fitmart Department Store in Tacurong City in 2002, the Awang Airport in Cotabato City in 2003, and the Parang Gymnasium in Parang, Maguindanao in March, 2004.

The funding of these activities is said to have come from an international source. On January 29, 2004, Irish police arrested one Jaybee Ofracio in Belfast. Ofracio is believed to have transmitted funds to JI operatives in the Philippines. Mentang was one of the ones who was said to have received fund transfers from Ofracio.

Jabidi is believed to be hiding in an MILF camp in Paglas, Maguindanao, along with at least four Indonesians alleged as JI members: Usman or Rizal, Zacky or Jack (these two are believed to be in the Kapatagan area in the boundary of Lanao and Maguindanao), Samrud Al Ormatan a.k.a. Marwan and Abdul Rati Talanghati a.k.a. Bigok (this second pair is thought to be in the vicinity of Upper Idtig, Paglat, Maguindanao).

Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza, commander of the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command, said that the threat to the U.S. Embassy and other vital installations had not subsided.

Sources: "Plot to Bomb US Embassy in Manila Foiled," Karl Lester M. Yap, Business World (Philippines), October 22, 2004; and "AFP claims 3 arrested ‘JI’ men were trained by MILF," Fernan Marasigan, ABS-CBN.

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