A plot to bomb the Christian festival of the Black Nazarene, due to take place in the Philippine capital Manila, was foiled on January 7. According to a report in the Manila Times, a group of 14 suspected Islamic militants were arrested assembling bombs. During the raid improvised explosive devices and bomb components, including timing gadgets and cables were confiscated. The annual procession attracts tens of thousands of devotees, and the human toll of the explosions, had they occurred, would have been considerable. According to the news report, the raid was part of a continuing investigation into attacks undertaken by Islamists over the Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivals, during which a bomb was defused on a bus and an explosion detonated in Cubao, Quezon City. The suspects of the latest attempt were given as members of a ‘Return to Islam’ movement, made up of Christians who have converted to Islam (www.manilatimes.net).
Further south, at Sultan Kudarat province on the southern tip of Mindanao Island, two Abu Sayyaf insurgents were killed, according to a report in the Philippine National Enquirer. This brings to four the number of Abu Sayyaf fatalities this week, as the security sweep by the Philippine Army tightens its grip on the region. At present the military is in pursuit of 80 remaining member of the group in the hinterlands of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.