updated 12/12/2003 10:12:21 AM ET 2003-12-12T15:12:21

Indonesian members of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah have been training Filipino rebels in bomb-making and other tactics toward its goal of creating a pan-Islamic state, the Philippines’ defense chief said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita said intelligence reports indicate that 31 Jemaah Islamiyah militants are training Filipino insurgents in southern Philippine jungle camps run by some commanders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah is suspected of several terror attacks, including last year’s Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Philippine authorities say the group was involved in a series of December 2000 bombings that killed 22 people and injured more than 100 in the capital, Manila.

The MILF denied Ermita’s statements and accused an unidentified “third force” in the government and the military of attempting to derail the peace process. Talks are expected to resume next month. A cease-fire has held since July.

“There are no JI members inside our camps,” MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said. He said the rebels were open to inspections and had already promised to help the government hunt down any militants.

Ermita claimed the Indonesians were giving lessons in improvising bombs and evading arrest while urging the rebels to pursue Jemaah Islamiyah’s goal of creating a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Ermita said the military believes the training was being conducted in at least two jungle sites on the main southern island of Mindanao.

The government has given the MILF leadership a list of rebel commanders suspected of supporting Jemaah Islamiyah.

“We are giving them (the MILF) the benefit of the doubt,” Ermita said. “We are going to take them on their word.”

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