Manila alert after prison deaths

The Philippines capital Manila is on alert after a militant group said it would retaliate for the deaths of 22 of its members in a failed jailbreak. 

A spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf said soon after police stormed the prison on Tuesday that it would target Manila. 

"We are taking these threats seriously," Manila police chief Avelino Razon told Reuters news agency. 

Hundreds of residents of a Muslim community in Manila buried the dead in a mass grave on Wednesday. 

Relatives raised clenched fists and yelled "Allahu Akbar" or "God is Great" as they carried the bodies, wrapped in white blankets. 

The disturbance at Camp Bagong Diwa jail started on Monday when militants snatched weapons from guards, opening fire and killing three in an attempted escape.

On Tuesday, police stormed the building after a 15 minute ultimatum ran out. 

Police said 22 prisoners and one policeman were killed during the operation. Three prominent leaders of Muslim group the Abu Sayyaf, involved in kidnapping and bombings, were among the dead. 

An Abu Sayyaf spokesman on Tuesday threatened to take revenge for the deaths, saying "we will bring the war to Manila". 

President Gloria Arroyo and members of the Muslim community called for calm. 

"We did not want it to end in violence. We gave them [the prisoners] all the time they needed to surrender peacefully," said Mrs Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye. 

The director of the organisation which runs prisons in the Philippines, Arturo Alit, has admitted that the institutions' lack of resources contributed to the attempted escape. 

Muslim leaders met senior police officials in Manila to discuss the Abu Sayyaf's latest threat. 

"I gave assurances to the authorities that no one would plot revenge for what happened," said Amerul Gulam Ambiong, a leading figure in Manila's Muslim community. 

The Abu Sayyaf is one of four Muslim rebel groups operating mostly in the southern Philippines. 

It has been labelled a terrorist organisation by both Manila and Washington, and is believed by the US to have links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. 

The Philippine government has deployed thousands of troops in the south in an effort to eradicate it.

16/03/2005

Bron : BBC News

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