Monday, May 14, 2007

Philippines Raises Terror Alert In 2 Southern Regions Threatened By Bomb Attacks

Philippine security officials raised the terror alert to the highest level in two southern regions, including one where authorities foiled a bomb attack on a national athletic event, due to the threat of bombings, police said. The terror alert was raised from "high" to "critical" — the highest in a four-level alert system — for the month of May in the mountainous heartland of southern Mindanao island and a nearby Muslim autonomous region where al-Qaida-linked militants have a presence, police said. Terrorist threats "have breached the critical level" in the two regions, according to a police statement. A critical alert means a terror attack has occurred or has just been foiled and follow-up attacks could be carried out. "Both have happened in those areas," police Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said. It was not immediately clear why the police made public the terror alert upgrade only now. The U.S. and a few other Western governments have warned their citizens not to travel in Mindanao areas due to the possibility of terror attacks.Police foiled an attempted bombing of the annual national games attended by hundreds of local athletes last month in southern Koronadal city when they found two homemade bombs intended to be exploded by Muslim militants during the closing ceremony, police said. Government forces separately found a mortar bomb and 20 sacks of ammonium nitrate and fertilizer that could be turned into powerful bombs in a suspected Muslim hide-out in Panamao township in southern Jolo island last month, police said. Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf insurgents and Indonesian militants being targeted by a massive U.S.-backed offensive on Jolo have had standing plans to bomb southern areas, police said. A bomb exploded Tuesday in a crowded district of southern Tacurong city, killing three people and wounding about 30 others. Tacurong police chief Superintendent Joel Limson said the bomb was made of TNT with nails used as shrapnel, and was triggered by a mobile phone — a design used in the past by the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah group. Members of the group have a presence in the south, including two top Indonesian terror suspects who fled there to escape a manhunt for their alleged role in the October 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.