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Bin Laden Linked To Philippine Rebels

June 20, 2000 - The monetary long arm of suspected international terrorist Osama bin Laden is now believed to stretch as far as the Philippines.

That's according to a top Philippine government official, who says Muslim guerrillas recently received $3 million from suspected international terrorist bin Laden to buy new weapons.

Armed forces vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Jose Calimlim says bin Laden sent the money through a rebel emissary who received the funds in a Middle Eastern country last month.

Calimlim, who also heads the military's intelligence service, said the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels are planning to use the money to purchase arms, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, from North Korea.

Calimlim says this isn't the rebels' first attempt to get weapons with the help of foreign funds. He says the rebels met a North Korean official in a hotel in Malaysia last month to discuss a possible arms deal.

Hostage Crisis
In The Philippines
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is the larger of two rebel groups fighting to create an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

The smaller group, Abu Sayyaf, continues to hold 21 mostly foreign hostages seized Easter Sunday at a Malaysian diving resort. Click here for more on the negotiations to free the Abu Sayyaf hostages.

The Philippines and North Korea are planning to establish diplomatic relations as early as next month. For many years, Manila refused to forge ties with the North Korean government because of suspicions it had backed Filipino Marxist guerrillas.

"While undertaking emergency procurement, they don't want to talk peace and they are waiting for an opportunity to strike again," Calimlim said in a radio interview.

The group's spokesman, Eid Kabalu, denied Calimlim's allegation.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is the larger of two rebel groups battling the government for an independent Islamic state in the impoverished southern Philippine region.

On Monday, the rebels indefinitely postponed peace talks scheduled to resume June 28 because of a continuing military offensive against their forces.

AP Photo
On of many posters of
Osama bin Laden seen
around the world,
this one in Pakistan.

President Joseph Estrada has given the guerrillas and government negotiators until June 30 to reach a peace deal.

Calimlim did not say where he'd learned of the alleged arms purchase, but said the military was working with international law enforcement agencies to monitor foreign financiers of the guerrillas.

Bin Laden, a Saudi-born millionaire who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, is wanted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 244 people.

Kabalu said the Manila government is trying to link the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to terrorists to blacken their image.

Bin Laden funded the construction of mosques and Muslim religious schools in the southern Philippines in the 1980s but has never given any money to his group, Kabalu said.

Government negotiators have proposed a political settlement that would expand an existing Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, homeland of the country's Muslim minority.

The military has seized more than 20 Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps since launching an offensive two months ago that has triggered the worst fighting in the southern Philippines in more than 25 years.

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