MANILA, Philippines — Security forces have arrested three suspects from the Middle East allegedly involved in a plot to bomb the US, British and Australian embassies in Manila, officials said Thursday.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita confirmed that two men were arrested last month in Mindanao and were being interrogated by military intelligence.
A third man, believed to be a Jordanian, was arrested recently in Manila according to a government security official who did not want to be named.
“Indications are that they were part of a plot to bomb at least four foreign embassies in Manila,” the source said.
He said the US, British and Australian embassies were believed to have been among the targets although he gave no further details.
“There is intelligence information that they are probably terrorists,” Ermita told reporters during a security conference in Manila. “Their objective was to create chaos.”
Asked if they had links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf militant groups, he said “most likely” but declined to give any further details.
Calls by Agence France-Presse to the US, British and Australian embassies were not returned.
A source at a Western embassy said the embassy was aware of the claims and was still trying to verify the reliability of the information.
A security consultant, who did not want to be named, said: “Despite the alleged bomb plot, security around the three embassies had not been increased.”
Similar allegations surfaced on February 14 when the government announced that it had uncovered a plot by Islamic militants linked to the Al-Qaeda network to assassinate President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and bomb foreign embassies.
Arroyo’s security chief, Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza, speaking last month, said Arroyo had been informed of the threats.
Prestoza said the plot was hatched by “extremists Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf.”
“It is not just the President, there are other targets,” he told reporters. “A number of embassies in Manila have also been targeted for attack,” Prestoza added, without naming the embassies.
In December an Egyptian teacher was arrested for allegedly plotting a Christmas bomb attack in Mindanao. He was later freed on bail and was said to have been escorted out of the country by Egyptian embassy officials.
Sheikh Mohammed al-Sayyid Ahmed Mussa, described by Cairo as an envoy of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, posted a P200,000 ($4,823) bond and was released into the custody of the Egyptian embassy.