Manila terror plot foiled, says Arroyo

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The Independent Online

The Philippines government claimed yesterday that it had foiled a "Madrid-level" terror attack by separatist rebels targeting shops and trains in the capital, Manila.

The Philippines government claimed yesterday that it had foiled a "Madrid-level" terror attack by separatist rebels targeting shops and trains in the capital, Manila.

Gloria Arroyo, the President, said four suspected Islamic militants of the Abu Sayyaf group were arrested at the weekend and Monday, and 80lb of TNT seized. "Follow-up operations are ongoing. They will be relentless," said Mrs Arroyo.

Some commentators expressed scepticism about the nature of the threat because elections are due in May. The national security adviser, Norberto Gonzales, said there were no politics involved.

Abu Sayyaf, which has links with al-Qa'ida, has warned that it would take "appropriate action" unless militants at Guantanamo Bay and in Philippines jails were freed.

Mrs Arroyo said one of the arrested men claimed responsibility for an explosion on a passenger ferry last month that killed more than 100. The arrested leader of the cell was identified as the cousin of the Abu Sayyaf leader, Khaddafy Janjalani. The cousin is suspected of beheading an American citizen, Guillermo Sobero, who was kidnapped in 2001 with a group of tourists.

* Spain's Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, said the Islamic Combatant Group, an extremist Moroccan group, was the focus of investigations into the Madrid train bombings.

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