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400 Filipinos Murdered by Terrorists in the Philippines
« on: July 30, 2007, 10:53:50 PM »
By Carlos H. Conde
International Herald Tribune

More than 400 civilians have been killed in bombings and other attacks by Islamic extremists in the Philippines since 2000, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch released Monday.

The attacks, which include the bombing of a passenger ship off Manila Bay in February 2004 in which 116 people were killed, underscored the need for Manila to do more against terrorism, said the group, which is based in New York. The bombing of the vessel was the second worst attack in Southeast Asia after the Bali bombings in October 2002.

"Extremist armed groups have spread terror among civilians in the Philippines," said John Sifton, an expert on terrorism at Human Rights Watch, in a statement that accompanied the release of the report, "Lives Destroyed: Attacks on Civilians in the Philippines."

"They have bombed buses carrying workers, food markets where people were shopping, airports where relatives were waiting for loved ones, and ferry boats carrying families." Aside from bombings, these groups also kidnapped and executed civilians, Sifton said.

Human Rights Watch singled out the Abu Sayyaf and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, two groups that had claimed responsibility for most of the attacks. The death toll exceeded the number of casualties in terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and Britain in the same period.

"The scale of the violence, however, has not received widespread attention outside the region," the report said. Most attacks here targeted buses and public places like markets and waiting sheds for commuters. These occurred mostly in Mindanao, the main island in the southern Philippines, which is also racked by Islamic separatism and a communist insurgency.

Abu Sayyaf is notorious for its kidnappings and beheadings of victims. The Rajah Solaiman Movement is made up of Filipino Christians who converted to Islam and who, according to the Philippine authorities, have linked up with both Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah, an Indonesia-based terrorist network.

Human Rights Watch criticized Manila for its failure to prosecute the suspects in these attacks. While many have been arrested since 2000, it said, only "very few have been successfully brought to trial, and prosecutions in some cases have been delayed for more than four years."

The report contained interviews with several survivors. It tried to show how their lives were changed by terrorism. "She wanted to be a lawyer or a journalist," said Ritzelle Paculba, whose daughter Clynn died in the bombing of the passenger ship. "My husband is hurting now. He struggled a lot when she died."

There was no immediate reaction from the government. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has asserted in the past that her administration's campaign against terrorism has been successful.

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