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March 30, 2004

Philippines to reopen ferry inquiry after terror arrests

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the reopening of the Marine Board investigation of the loss of the ferry Superferry 14 after one of four arrested terrorist suspects claimed claimed responsibility for the bombing of the vessel.

The Arroyo Administration has until now downplayed claims by terrorist organizations that they were responsible for the February 27 loss of the ferry.

Today's announcement was made by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose D. Lina.

Lina stressed that the President’s objective in reopening the Super Ferry 14 probe is to validate and determine the accuracy of the confession made by one of the arrested suspects.

Chief Superintendent Ismael Rafanan, head of the PNP Intelligence Group, identified the suspects as Alhambser Manatad Limbong with aliases Limbong, Hassan, Sayyaf and Kosovo; Redondo Cain Dellosa alias Akmad Dellosa; Abdurajib Lim alias Abu Hanifa; and Radsmar Sangkula alias Michael Saavedra.

He said the four were arrested in two separate joint operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Makati City and Fairview in Quezon City.

According to a Philippine Government statement, Rafanan said Dellosa, an active member of the Abu Sayyaf who trained under an Indonesian Jemaah Islamiyah instructor and underwent training for explosives in Lanao Del Sur, was first arrested by the joint operatives of the PNP and AFP somewhere in Makati City over the weekend.

In a press briefing, Rafanan said that Dellosa claimed responsibility for the bombing of Super Ferry 14.

According to Philtippine press reports "a top security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity" said Dellosa, a Muslim convert, confessed that he was "passenger 51” and said he placed TNT in a TV that he carried onto the ferry.

Abu Sayyaf had earlier identified its “suicide bomber” as Arnulfo Alvarado and said he was in bunk 51.

Chief Supt. Rafanan, said Dellosa claimed he used the name Alvarado to get on the ship, and that two of the other detainees confirmed his account.

At the marine board of inquiry hearing earlier this month, say Philippine media reports, a safety supervisor with the ship’s owner, WG&A, testified that about 150 survivors told him the explosion took place in the tourist section, in the general area of bunk 51.

The ship’s captain, Ceferino Manzo, testified in the same hearing that the entire tourist section was engulfed in “thick black smoke [that] smelled like gunpowder.”

The marine board has thus far published no report of its findings.

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