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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 10:47 GMT
Philippines arrest Abu Sayyaf bomber
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo shows a sketch of a truck bomb plan seized from an arrested suspect, Abdulmukim Edris, standing behind the president
The president held up seized plans for a truck bomb
Philippine authorities have arrested a suspected Muslim militant who planned to attack the Manila stock exchange and the US embassy using electronically-detonated truck bombs, the military has announced.

The suspect, Abdulmukim Edris, has confessed he was trained by two Yemeni nationals, possibly linked to the al-Qaeda terror network, a military statement said.

We are slowly closing in on the enemy

General Benjamin Defensor
military chief
Mr Edris, an alleged explosives expert for the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping group, was paraded before the television cameras as the military presented him to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.

The suspect, who carried a one million peso ($18,800) reward on his head, has admitted masterminding a series of deadly bombings in the south of the country, said military chief of staff General Benjamin Defensor.

"We are slowly closing in on the enemy," General Defensor told reporters. "We shall not lower our guard until decisive victory is attained."

The suspect was captured on Tuesday in suburban Pasay city, the general said.

'Al-Qaeda training'

He said Mr Edris and his group planned to build a truck bomb and were targeting government installations, foreign embassies, shopping malls and other "soft targets" in the capital Manila.

The suspect, Abdulmukim Edris (centre), a suspected Muslim rebel is escorted by air force guards 14 November 2002
The suspect had an $18,800 bounty on his head
"We have information on what they are planning to do and we have given the warning to possible targets," he said.

He said Mr Edris admitted he was trained by two Yemenis in making car bombs using mobile phones and digital clocks at an Abu Sayyaf camp on southern Basilan island for a month last year.

During police questioning Mr Edris described the two Yemenis as "VIPs" or very important persons "from al-Qaeda," a police intelligence officer said.

Deadly attacks

The Abu Sayyaf, which says is fighting for a Muslim homeland, is best known for a string of kidnappings for ransom of foreigners and Christians in the south, as well as bomb attacks on Christian targets.

The Philippine authorities now believe the group has links with al-Qaeda and with Jemaah Islamiah, a regional militant group suspected of involvement in last month's nightclub bomb on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.

General Defensor said Mr Edris was "implicated by his own cohorts" in at least four bombings in southern Zamboanga city last month that killed 12 people, including a US serviceman, and injured more than 200 others.

The bombs exploded outside a karaoke bar near a military camp, at the entrance to a Catholic shrine and inside department stores in Zamboanga.

He also allegedly took part in the raid on the Dos Palmas resort in May 2001 in which the Abu Sayyaf seized three Americans and 17 Filipinos at the start of a year-long kidnapping spree in which more than 100 people were eventually abducted.

Mr Edris faces murder and kidnapping charges.

The BBC's John McLean
"The suspect was paraded in front of the news media"
See also:

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