An Indonesian terror suspect linked to simultaneous bombings last month that killed eight people in Manila and two other cities has been arrested in the southern Philippines, where he allegedly trained Abu Sayyaf militants in bomb making, the military said Tuesday.
The man, identified as Rohmat, alias Zaki, and allegedly a member of the regional al-Qaida-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested last Wednesday at a checkpoint in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province, military spokesman Lt. Col. Buenaventura Pascual said.
Pascual said Rohmat told interrogators that he was present when Abu Sayyaf leaders Abu Solaiman and Khadaffy Janjalani gave instructions for the Feb. 14 bombings that also wounded more than 100 others.
The Abu Sayyaf said the bombings were retaliation for a military offensive against militants in the southern Philippines.
According to a military statement, Rohmat was close to Solaiman and Janjalani and acted as a liaison for Jemaah Islamiyah in the Philippines.
Close working relationships
The charges against him provide further insight into a close working relationship between two of Southeast Asia’s most dangerous terrorist organizations.
Rohmat arrived in the country five years ago and was sent for training at a Jemaah Islamiyah camp in the Mindanao region together with 20 other militants, the statement said. He was a student of Indonesian Taufiq Rifki, arrested two years ago in the Philippines on charges of handling finances for Jemaah Islamiyah operations here.
The statement said Rohmat became an instructor in Philippine camps, and in 2003, he was sent by Zulkifli, a top regional terror suspect arrested in Malaysia two years ago, to Jolo island to train the Abu Sayyaf for three months.
Following the training, he acted as Zulkifli’s liaison, staying with Janjalani “wherever the group went until his capture,” it said.
Intelligence officials told The Associated Press that Rohmat trained the Abu Sayyaf in bomb making, particularly the use of mobile phones to trigger homemade explosives.
Officials said Monday that three Jemaah Islamiyah operatives are suspected of plotting with the Abu Sayyaf to launch bomb attacks during this week’s Easter holiday.
Soldiers and police have boosted patrols of shopping malls, churches and other crowded places to thwart reported bombing plots threatened by the Abu Sayyaf as revenge for the deaths of 23 inmates killed by police in a botched jailbreak last week. Among them were three prominent guerrilla commanders.