Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Philippine Navy steps up anti-terror ops in Mindanao

Members of the Philippine Navy’s Special Warfare Assault Group inspect a trawler for explosives or illegal weapons Tuesday, July 22, 2009 near Pilas group of islands in the Sulu Sea off Zamboanga City. Admiral Alexander Pama, a regional navy chief, has ordered an intensified patrol in the troubled region following the recent bombings of the Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Indonesia and the spate of bombings in Mindanao and Sulu in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 22, 2009) – The Philippine Navy has stepped up its patrol in the southern region of Mindanao following the spate of bombings and attacks blamed on terrorists.

Authorities blamed the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya and the Abu Sayyaf and Moro rebels for the series of bombings in Sulu and Mindanao in recent weeks that left scores of civilians dead and wounded.

Indonesia also tagged the Jemaah Islamiya for the recent suicide bombings of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta which killed nine people and wounded at least 53 others.

“We have stepped up our security patrol. We are fighting terrorism here,” Admiral Alexander Pama, the navy’s regional commander in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said navy gunboats regularly patrol the Moro Gulf, the Mindanao, Sulu and Celebes seas, an area where pirates are actively operating.

Last week, authorities seized some 350 kilos of banned ammonium nitrate and 1,800 pieces of blasting caps and detonating cords from a cargo vessel in the central Philippine province of Cebu that was heading for Iligan City in Mindanao.

The spikes in bomb attacks in Mindanao and Sulu also coincided with the release of three kidnapped Red Cross workers held by the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya.

The trio – Swiss national Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni – was kidnapped in January in Sulu after inspecting a humanitarian project at a prison in Patikul town.

Lacaba and Notter were freed separately in April, while Vagni was released this month and there were persistent reports that ransoms had been paid to the Abu Sayyaf for their liberty.

It was, however, unknown whether the ransoms had been used to finance the bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia. The Red Cross denied that it paid ransoms to the kidnappers.

The military has last week deployed hundreds of soldiers in Basilan and Sulu provinces to crush the Abu Sayyaf. (Mindanao Examiner)

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