Manila arrests Islamist over plot to attack Israeli, U.S. embassies
Suspect was involved in at least six local bombings, belongs to combat unit of 11,600-strong rebel group.
Philippines police have arrested a Muslim militant suspected of plotting to attack the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, as well as helping to mastermind a series of deadly bombings in the country's southern islands, local officials said.
Police intelligence agents arrested Muaweya Abubakar Masabpi last week in Manila's Pasay district. It was not clear if he was in the capital to carry out an attack or was trying to lie low due to an anti-terrorism crackdown in the south, national police Chief Jesus Versoza said.
Versoza said Masabpi was involved in at least six bombings on the region, including a 2002 blast at a Roman Catholic cathedral in southern Cotabato city, a 2003 bombing of a disco in the same city and a 2007 attack that killed one person and wounded scores of others in an electronics center in southern Kidapawan city.
Intelligence agents were hunting for a number of militants who worked with Masabpi in past attacks, Versoza told a news conference where he presented a video of the suspect in custody.
He said Masabpi belongs to an elite combat force of the 11,600-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim rebel group which has been engaged in on-and-off peace talks with the government. He has also worked in past attacks with members of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah, Versoza said.
Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said he was not sure if Masabpi is a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but added his group has never targeted civilians.
A Philippine anti-terrorism official said Masabpi was also involved in a plot to bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies that has not occurred for unclear reasons. Both embassies are among the most heavily guarded in Manila. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Masabpi is the third important terror suspect to be arrested in recent weeks.
The military announced last week the capture of Filipino militants Omar Venancio and Mokasid Dilna, who allegedly helped top al-Qaida-linked foreign terrorists gain a foothold in Muslim strongholds in the southern Mindanao region to carry out bombings.
Among those helped by the two were top Indonesian terror suspects Umar Patek and Dulmatin, who goes by one name. The two Indonesians allegedly helped plot the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings in Indonesia that killed 202 people in Southeast Asia's worst terrorist attack.
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