Three Muslim Filipinos acting on orders of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network have confessed to plotting a bomb attack on the US Embassy in Manila, the military said on Thursday.
The three suspects, Abdul Manap Mentang, his girlfriend, Monawara Usop, and Mursid Mubpon, were arrested in Santa Ana, Manila, on October 6-7 and confessed under interrogation, the Armed Forces spokesman, Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, said. They were presented to the media at Camp Aguinaldo.
They told investigators they were ordered to scout the US Embassy in Manila last month in preparation for another bombing, Adan said in a statement.
“On September 23 Mentang, his live-in partner, Monawara Usop, and Mubpon cased the US Embassy,” Adan said.
“Mubpon was tasked to design a bomb-triggering mechanism using a cellular phone according to their plan to bomb the embassy.”
No further evidence against the three was given.
The three also confessed to bombing the airport and the wharf in Davao City last year, Adan said, also after receiving orders from JI. The blasts in March and April 2003 killed 42 and injured 166 other people.
Mentang told investigators he is a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and that he assembled the bombs used in the Davao attacks, Adan said.
Mentang also said he was trained in Camp Hudaybiyah in Butig, Lanao del Sur, in 1995 by a senior Jemaah Islamiah leader and bomb maker, an Indonesian identified as Zulkifli, who ordered the bombings in Davao.
Adan also charged that an Indonesian JI member, Abdul Jabidi, had supplied the explosives used in the Davao attacks and in three other bombings elsewhere in Mindanao between 2002 and 2004.
The link between the MILF and the JI comes despite the MILF’s assurance that it has cut all its ties with terror groups as a part of the peace talks with the government.
Information given by Irish police intelligence identifies Mentang as the recipient of funds from Jaybee Ofracio, a Filipino living in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Ofracio, a Balik Islam member, was arrested in Belfast on January 29.
Adan said military intelligence traced cash withdrawals made by Ofracio in March and April, the month the Davao bombings took place. Ofracio was reported to have been seen in Davao during those months.
Another accomplice, an Indonesian named Abdul Jabidi alias Bedz, is reportedly hiding in an MILF camp in Paglat, Maguindanao. Jabidi provided 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, early this year.
“That’s why the AFP asks the government and MILF panels to bring Bedz and other Indonesians who have links with him and are now in their area to the courts of justice,” Adan said.
The MILF and the government are waiting for the Muslim feast of Ramadan to end on October 15 before starting formal peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.
“What we are trying to identify here are the members of the MILF who want to pursue peace with the government and those who do not and those who want to pursue their objectives using violence,” Adan added.
Other Indonesians being hunted in the rural areas of Maguindanao are Usman alias Rizal, Zacky alias Jack, Samrud Al Ormatan alias Marwan and Abdul Rati Talanghati alias Bigok.
“These foreign nationals are equally responsible for the bombings and should answer for their crimes committed against innocent Filipino people,” said Lt. Gen. Efren Abu, the incoming AFP chief of staff.
Owing to the disclosure of the plot to bomb the US Embassy, police have banned demonstrations in front of and near the embassy grounds.
Police Director Avelino Razon Jr., Metro Manila chief, directed the Western Police District to disperse any group that would hold protest rallies in front of the embassy.
Razon said additional policemen had been assigned to guard the compounds’ perimeter.
Chief Supt. Pedro Bulaong, WPD director, said police officers, including members of the Special Weapons and Tactics team, were deployed outside the embassy.
The government and the MILF signed a cease-fire in 2002 to pave the way for the holding of formal peace talks, hosted by Malaysia. But as a condition for the talks to proceed, the MILF swore that it had cut all ties with terror groups.
Despite this assurance, security officials are convinced that the MILF still has ties with the terrorist group, which has been blamed for the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that left more than 200 people dead.
— Karl B Kaufman, Jonathan Vicente