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Palawan safe with capture of extremists–Wescom

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:48:00 03/24/2008

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines — The westernmost province of Palawan, home to several upscale beach resorts, is safe after authorities foiled an alleged plot by the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf to bomb commercial establishments and kidnap tourists, the military commander in the region said.

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The arrest of seven Abu Sayyaf members late last year effectively destroyed the terrorist cell that was tasked to carry out the plot, said Commodore Ruperto Borromeo, chief of the Armed Forces’ Western Command (Wescom).

The plot was supposed to have been executed to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11 last year, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“Palawan remains safe secure and progressive,” Borromeo said in a speech at the Wescom headquarters here, during the command’s 32nd anniversary rites.

In a later interview with reporters, Borromeo elaborated: “As of now, we have not monitored [threats], but our monitoring is continuous, as well as our coordination with intelligence units, especially in Mindanao.”

The Abu Sayyaf leadership, together with several operatives of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, is reportedly hiding in southwestern Mindanao, the main southern island in the Philippines.

In his speech, Esperon lauded the cooperation between the police and military, which he cited as one of the factors that led to the arrest of the Abu Sayyaf suspects in Palawan last year.

“This successful partnership has thwarted the planned bombing and kidnapping in Puerto Princesa that was to coincide with the anniversary of the 9-11 bombing,” he said.

“You have averted a bloody incident that would have claimed innocent lives,” he said.

Esperon said the cell behind the alleged plot was formed in Mindanao then sent to Palawan.

In 2001, the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped several foreign and local tourists from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, including Americans Martin and Gracia Burnham, a missionary couple, and tourist Guillermo Sobero.

Sobero was beheaded soon after as an “independence day gift” from the extremists to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Gracia Burnham was rescued in Sibuco town in the Zamboanga peninsula a year later, but her husband was killed in the operation.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-03-24T15:26:12+00:00UTC03bUTCMon, 24 Mar 2008 15:26:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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