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'Nine Islamists arrested in Philippines'

world Updated: Jan 15, 2009 13:22 IST

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Nine suspected bombers thought to belong to Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) have been arrested in separate raids in the southern Philippines, the army said on Thursday.

The arrests were made on Monday and Tuesday near the town of Awang on Mindanao island, the army's Eastern Mindanao Command said.

It did not say if the suspects were foreigners, although earlier military intelligence reports have said dozens of Indonesian JI militants are believed to be training in the south alongside Filipinos from the Abu Sayyaf group and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The suspects were "undergoing tactical interrogations," the army said.

It said they were found with bomb-making devices and explosives, similar to those used in a series of attacks that have wounded more than 40 people since December.

The Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is blamed for the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia that left over 200 dead, many of them Australian tourists.

Filipino and regional terrorism experts say the JI has infiltrated Islamist groups here after two of its senior bomb-makers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, fled to Mindanao in 2003.

The US government has offered up to 11 million dollars as a reward for the capture of the two.

Dulmatin was reported killed in a clash with Filipino troops in the south last year, although DNA tests later on a decomposing body said to be his were declared inconclusive.

In a separate incident, a bomb destroyed a small army boat at the southern port of Cotobato but caused no injuries.

Experts disarmed a second bomb in another boat, the army said, adding that the devices were similar to those widely-used by militants.