Church Attacked in Philippines City

October 20, 2002

(BBC News) Police in the Philippines say a bomb has exploded near 
a Catholic church in the southern city of Zamboanga.

A guard at the shrine at Fort Pillar was killed in the blast and at least 12
other people were injured, Philippine officials said. It was the second fatal
bombing in the predominantly Christian city in four days -- on Thursday, seven
people died and more than 100 were hurt in two bomb explosions at a shopping
centre.

Police attributed the earlier attack, as well as two other bombings in the
capital, Manila, on Friday, in which two people died, to Islamic militants.

Hours before Sunday's blast, police in Manila captured a man they said was a
senior member of the Muslim extremist group, Abu Sayyaf, suspected of staging
the earlier Zamboanga blasts. The group is notorious for kidnapping foreigners
and Christians in the southern Philippines and it has previously been linked to
Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Shrine hit
Philippines police said Sunday's bomb was hidden in bag left at a candle store
at the shrine, some 860 kilometres (530 miles) south of Manila. The church was
packed with worshippers when the device exploded.

Earlier, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appealed for calm in a
televised broadcast to the nation. The president has ordered security to be
tightened around the country in the wake of the deadly blasts.

"A few troublemakers with limited capabilities are trying to bully 80 million
Filipinos into living in fear and terror in their own homes and in their
neighbourhoods," she said. "Let us not allow ourselves to be cowed into
submission by those who seek to terrorise us."

Rebel arrested
On Saturday, police said they captured Mark Bolkerin Gumbahale, a senior member
of Abu Sayyaf.

Mr Gumbahale has been accused of involvement in a wave of bombings and
kidnappings and a bounty of nearly $100,000 had been offered for his capture.
National Police Chief Hermogenes Ebdane said Mr Gumbahale would be charged with
kidnapping Indonesians and foreign tourists over the past three years.

Police said Mr Gumbahale had admitted taking part in the beheadings of at least
two hostages who could not pay ransoms and of nine captured soldiers.

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