Britain says terrorists may be in final stages of planning attacks in Philippines

(AP) MANILA, Philippines Britain warned Tuesday that terrorists may be in the final stages of plotting more attacks after a series of bombings in the southern Philippines, and advised its citizens against traveling to the sprawling region.

Philippine police have blamed al-Qaida-linked militants from the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah and the local Abu Sayyaf groups for three bombings in the south last week, including an Oct. 10 attack that killed six people and wounded 29 others during a town fiesta in North Cotabato province.

The U.S., British and Australian embassies had cautioned against travel to Mindanao shortly before the attacks, citing credible information that terrorists could strike.

Renewing their warning, British officials said more terror attacks could be looming.

“We believe that terrorists are in the final stages of planning further attacks,” a British Embassy advisory said.

It cited possible kidnappings of foreigners in resorts and terrorist attacks against “all forms of public transport: road, rail, sea and air.”

Police in the capital went on alert Tuesday. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo urged the public to report suspicious people and activities.

“The authorities are on top of the situation, but they need the active support of the community to safeguard the perimeters of peace and order,” she said in a statement.

“The strong cooperation between vigilant public and our security forces will deny the terrorists any room to carry out sinister plots,” Arroyo said.

Muslim militants allegedly staged last week’s bombings to distract attention from a monthslong U.S.-backed military offensive against Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf rebels on southern Jolo island, and to avenge the recent capture of the wife of Dulmatin, a top Indonesian terror suspect believed to be hiding there, police said.

Police on Monday filed criminal complaints against Dulmatin, three other Indonesian militants and at least 18 local insurgents over one of the attacks that wounded four people in a public market in southern Tacurong city, officials said.

Authorities have placed Mindanao under “extreme critical alert” — the highest of a four-step public terror warning.

Also Tuesday, they seized about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer transported from Jolo to southern Zamboanga city, fearing the material could be used as explosives, officials said.

Three men were questioned in connection with the shipment, which was declared as fish cargo, Zamboanga port commander Frank Clavecillas said.

Photo: Muslim students walk past the site Monday, Oct. 16, 2006 where suspected members of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group bombed late Sunday the compound of provincial police headquarters in the volatile island of Jolo in southern Philippines wounding three people. Another explosive device was dismantled by Government troopers just hours before it was timed to go off. It was one of a series of bombings that rocked the southern Philippines since last week that killed six people and wounded 39 others and which prompted authorities to place the restive region under ‘extreme critical alert,’ the highest of a four-step public terror warning system. (AP Photo/Al Jacinto)

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