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Monday, 29 May, 2000, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Rebels deny Manila bombings

The MILF says the suspects are not their members
The main Muslim rebel group in the Philippines has denied that the 26 people arrested for alleged involvement in the recent bombings in Manila were their members.

Eid Cabalu, an official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told ABS-CBN television that they had checked whether those arrested were members.

He added: "[The police] also said that the MILF has orders to sow terror in metropolitan Manila. That is not true, it has no basis."


jolo grenade blast victim
The bomb attacks have brought the peso down and rattled markets

National police chief General Panfilo Lacson had blamed the two Manila bomb attacks earlier this month on the MILF, the largest rebel group fighting for a separate Muslim state in the predominantly Catholic country.

Suspicion for the bombings, which injured 24 people and killed one, has also fallen on Abu Sayyaf, the smaller rebel separatist group holding 21 foreign hostages on the island of Jolo.

Bombs also rocked Jolo this month, killing five people and injuring 70.

Policeman arrested

General Lacson said on Sunday that the 26 suspects, including a police sergeant, were picked up in pre-dawn raids in a Muslim area of Manila on Saturday.

He said three of the suspects had been identified by witnesses at the scene of the 17 May and 21 May bombings.


map
The MILF want a separate Muslim state in Mindanao
A police statement said one of them had undergone "extensive training in Malaysia".

Police also seized a detonating cord, bullets, a "plastic container filled with suspected explosive powder" and other equipment used to manufacture bombs.

The 15,000-strong MILF has said that the arrests would not affect the current negotiations with the government to reach a political settlement.

The group had announced a temporary ceasefire earlier this month after weeks of intense fighting with government forces.

The fighting has driven more than 400,000 people from their homes, relief officials say.

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See also:

21 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Manila hit by cinema bomb
18 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bomb blasts rock Jolo
05 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Rebels declare ceasefire
03 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines bomb kills four
16 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Grenade blast in Manila kills eight
12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Church call for prayer crusade
02 May 00 | Media reports
Separatist clashes intensify in Mindanao
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