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Philippine 'al Qaeda camp' raided

Staff and wires

MANILA, Philippines -- Police in the Philippines raided a suspected al Qaeda terrorist training camp this weekend and arrested nine people at an Islamic school in the northern part of this Southeast Asian nation.

Authorities said the camp is not connected to Abu Sayyaf militants operating in the south of the country, who have ties to the terror network led by Osama bin Laden, and are being hunted down by troops.

Police also seized high-caliber firearms, grenades and a grenade launcher, along with documents at the camp.

The camp was discovered on Friday based on intelligence from a suspected Islamic militant captured after a clash on Thursday in Anda, in Pangasinan province north of Manila, police said.

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The camp was in an Islamic school in a mountainous area in Tarlac province bordering Pangasinan.

Police chief Reynaldo Berroya, who led the operation, said Thursday's clash followed a gunfight on Wednesday in which police investigating a report of armed men came under fire near the training camp.

One gunman in Thursday's firefight was killed by police while nine were arrested, including two suspected training camp caretakers.

Police said the suspected Islamic militants had no known connection with any Muslim extremist groups in the southern Philippines, where U.S. soldiers are training Filipino soldiers to better fight the Abu Sayyaf, which is holding two Americans and a Filipino nurse hostage.

Police said one of the arrested militants claimed the group had been sent to cause havoc in Tarlac city on the May Day holiday, adding that they were new recruits who had been linked to the gunmen in Wednesday's clash.

"One of the guys we interrogated told us this group is trying to build a stronger presence" in the northern Philippine island of Luzon, Berroya told The Associated Press.

The nine suspected militants were presented to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she visited the police regional command in Pangasinan early Saturday.




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