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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 14:10 GMT
Philippines police foil bombing
By Sarah Toms
BBC, Manila

Map of Philippines
Philippine police say they stopped a planned suicide attack on a crowded Roman Catholic festival by arresting 16 suspected Muslim militants and seizing three homemade bombs on Friday.

The arrests come two days ahead of a religious procession in Manila attended by thousands of people every year on 9 January.

Police made the arrests after a raid on a building in Manila.

They said three improvised bombs, a sub-machine gun with a silencer and other weapons were also seized.

Police acted on intelligence reports of a plan for a suicide attack at the religious festival, the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of Roman Catholics, barefoot and wearing maroon tunics, will parade a cross and statue of Christ through the capital.

The crowd jostles to touch the religious icon, believing it has healing powers. A regular devotee is the country's vice-president, Noli de Castro.

Police say the 16 Filipino suspects are also being questioned about any links to the bombing of a ferry in February 2004 by Abu Sayyaf rebels that killed more than 100 people.

Security forces in this mainly Catholic country are battling long-running Muslim and communist insurgencies.

The Abu Sayyaf is the smallest of several Muslim rebel groups in the southern Philippines. The band has been linked to regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah.


SEE ALSO:
Bomb caused Philippine ferry fire
11 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines bomb plot 'thwarted'
30 Mar 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Guide to the Philippines conflict
30 Mar 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Timeline: The Philippines
17 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: The Philippines
15 Sep 04 |  Country profiles


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