Mindanao– The Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has stepped up its training of Philippine terrorists by giving them instructions on the manufacture of bombs that can be hidden in cars, vests and even helmets.
Intelligence officials became aware of this development following the arrests of four alleged JI members – three foreigners and one Filipino – in December.
The suspects, however, were presented to the media only on Feb 24 because the military were engaged in follow-up operations to determine local contacts and identify those sending terrorist funding from Indonesia, said Philippine National Police Intelligence Group director Chief Superintendent Ismael Rafanan.
“Definitely, they're not recycled.We purposely intended to withhold their presentation," he said.
The four suspects are identified as Indonesians Mohammad Nasir Hamid and Mohammed Yusop Karin Faiz; Ted Yolanda, a Malaysian; and their Filipino cohort Muhajir de la Merced, described as an operative of the Abu Sayyaf’s special operations group.
Supt Rafanan said the four had been training Abu Sayyaf extremists and a small group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas in bombing techniques and strategies.
The training included the manufacture of high-projectile materials fashioned out of metal fragments from cars to helmets, as well as utilisingphotographer’s vests in carrying out bomb attacks.
Steel helmets, said Supt Rafanan,can be used as metal projectiles against helicopters and other low-flying aircraft.
The four suspects were arrested at the port city ofZamboangaafter foreign governments had tipped offManilaon the suspects’ movements.
Themen wereheaded for a known JI training base onMountKararaoinCentral Mindanao.
"They were preparing to go into (making) car bombs," Supt Rafanan said. "They have reached that level of sophistication. They are ready to do it."
Western intelligence agencies had previously warned of terror training camps inMindanao, some supposedly run by radical MILF guerrillas who provide sanctuary and training facilities for Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
* Terror suspects not recycled – police (Inquirer News Service, Feb 25)
*JI steps up bomb training in RP (The Philippine Star, Feb 25)