Arroyo reviews militant manhunt

President Gloria Arroyo has flown to the southern Philippines to check on the manhunt for a high-profile Muslim militant who escaped from a Manila prison in July.

Mrs Arroyo will meet military commanders who are co-ordinating the search for Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, an Indonesian suspected of involvement in plots by the group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) to plant bombs in Singapore and the Philippines capital.

He was serving a 17-year prison sentence for illegal possession of explosives and falsifying travel papers.

His escape, which came to light on the day the Australian Prime Minister John Howard was visiting the Philippines, was a major embarrassment for Mrs Arroyo, who has won praise from the US for her role in its war against terror.

The government's failure to capture al-Ghozi has added to security concerns ahead of US President George W Bush's visit to Manila in October.

Mrs Arroyo's first stop was Jolo, a tropical island where government troops are battling the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group, which specialises in kidnapping for ransom.

She will then stay overnight in Zamboanga, the headquarters of the military's Southern Command, where she will discuss the hunt for al-Ghozi.

Mrs Arroyo will "hear from the people from the field how they are doing, how their strategies and tactics are being done, and in particular, any problems they may be encountering which may be addressed by speedy executive directives by the president," cabinet secretary Ricardo Saludo told the BBC's World Today programme.

Philippine police and military officials say they believe the escaped militant is being protected in the south, which is home to several armed groups.

22/09/2003

Bron : BBC World

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