PHILIPPINES: Manila blames MILF for blast

Issue 

BY NICK SOUDAKOFF

The Philippines government has blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a March 4 bomb blast that ripped through a crowded bus shelter outside Davao City airport in Mindanao. The MILF has been blamed even though the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

The blast killed at least 21 people and injured more than 130 others. General Edgardo Aglipay, police deputy director general and head of the investigation, declared "[the MILF] are involved until it can be proven that they are not involved". The government filed multiple murder charges on March 7 against the founder of the MILF, Salamat Hashim, and other MILF leaders for the bombing.

MILF military chief Ibrahim Murad denied that his group was behind the blast, condemning it as "a barbaric act".

In response to the speculation that the Davao bombing would be used as a pretext for greater US military involvement in Mindanao, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced on March 5 that US troops will not have a combat role in the Balikatan 03-1 exercises, contrary to the assertions of officials in Washington.

The exercises will go ahead with US special forces troops training Philippines soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, using Abu Sayyaf combatants as live targets. The exercises will be held on the island of Jolo in the Sulu province, south-west of the island of Mindanao.

From Green Left Weekly, March 12, 2003.

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