Philippine police arrest Egyptian plotting Christmas bomb attack

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COTABATO, Philippines: Police in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato said Wednesday they had arrested an Egyptian man allegedly plotting a bomb attack on Christmas day.

The suspect, identified as Egyptian national Mohamad Sayed, was arrested Tuesday during a raid on an apartment inside the Majad Islamic School in Cotabato, police said.

Recovered from his room was an explosive device fashioned from a 60-millimeter mortar shell and ball bearings attached to a timing device, which was later safely detonated.

Sayed, who also goes by the alias Abu Hussein, was undergoing interrogation at police headquarters in Cotabato, said local police chief Superintendent Willie Dangane. He said the Egyptian was captured after surveillance by the police and military.

He said intelligence reports indicated that he planned to detonate the bomb at an undisclosed location in the city on Christmas day. It was not clear whether he was acting alone or was affiliated with any groups.

Among the items recovered from his room was a booklet on the organization of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has been fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

Dangane said they had no evidence to connect Sayed to the MILF.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said “we have no information who this guy is, nor has he talked to any of our officials. What I know is that there are many Egyptian missionaries in the city.

The MILF signed a truce to negotiate peace with the Philippine government three years ago but the 12,000-strong rebel group recently postponed the latest round of peace talks.

Prior to agreeing to the peace talks with Manila, the MILF in the past had admitted that foreign “students had studied in its religious schools.

It has repeatedly denied formal links with foreign militants, including those with the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group and the Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf’s size has been reduced to the low hundreds from a high of more than 1,000 fighters five years ago, military officials have said.

Remnants from the group are however believed to be hiding out in the southern islands with JI militants Dulmatin and Umar Patek, Indonesian nationals wanted for the October 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia.

In 1997, an Egyptian and a Pakistani attacked a military camp near Cotabato City, throwing grenades. They were gunned down by soldiers.

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