- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

MANILA (AP) Philippine police have captured a leader of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf suspected in the kidnappings of Western tourists two years ago, officials said yesterday.
Mark Bolkerin Gumbahale, 21, is also accused of collusion with Indonesians linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, the Muslim extremist group suspected of ties to al Qaeda, in a wave of bombings in Manila on Dec. 30, 2000, that killed 22 persons.
The Manila bombings coincided with similar attacks in Indonesia that month that killed 19 persons. Indonesia arrested the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah in connection with the 2000 attacks yesterday.
In the Philippines, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, an Indonesian and suspected member of Jemaah Islamiyah, told police that he helped plan the 2000 bombings and was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.
The United States suspects the involvement of Jemaah Islamiyah in the car-bomb attack on the Indonesian island of Bali last weekend that killed at least 183 persons, mostly foreign tourists. Philippine officials believe that a series of bomb attacks in the country during the past two weeks were similar in execution to the 2000 attacks.
Bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled rail station entrances yesterday, and police conducted random vehicle searches as officials shaken by the blasts stepped up security in Manila.
Seeking to ease jitters, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appealed for calm in a national radio and television address, saying the Philippines wouldn't be bullied by terrorists.
"A few troublemakers with limited capabilities are trying to bully 80 million Filipinos into living in fear and terror," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Let us not be cowed into submission."
Her address followed a security meeting first scheduled for tomorrow after two bombs exploded Thursday in southern Zamboanga city, killing seven persons and injuring 152.
But the meeting was quickly rescheduled when a powerful blast ripped through a bus late Friday in suburban Manila, killing two persons and injuring more than 20. It was the fourth deadly explosion in the Philippines in two weeks.
Gumbahale, also known as Abu Pula and Dr. Abu, was arrested Thursday as he played a video game at an Internet cafe in the Manila suburb of Taguig, said police Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal.
Gumbahale is suspected in the kidnapping of 10 tourists two Finns, three Germans, three French and two South Africans along with 11 others from the Pulau Sipadan dive resort in April 2000. All except one Filipino have been freed, reportedly after Libya paid huge ransoms.
Gumbahale, a firearms specialist, is one of the top eight leaders of Abu Sayyaf. A reward equal to about $94,000 had been offered for his capture.
Near the time of the announcement of Gumbahale's capture, the government said it killed five Muslim guerillas in two clashes in the southern Philippines. Soldiers battled about 50 rebels, killing three and recovering two M-16 rifles and two M-79 grenade launchers, in the first clash yesterday morning in the foothills of Mount Palaw, said Col. Ernesto Boac, a commander with the 401st Infantry Brigade.
A second firefight, in which two guerrillas were killed and two M-16 rifles were recovered, followed 35 minutes later about two miles away in the forested hills, Col. Boac said.
The government said it suffered no casualties in either clash.

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