Terror Suspect Believed Killed

al-Qaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah member from Indonesia, Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, signs his statement assisted by Rossy Verano, left, a consular staff member of the Indonesian Embassy Wednesday, July 2, 2003 at the Department of Justice in Manila. Al-Ghozi and Muslim rebel Saifulla Yunos admitted their involvement in the December 2000 series of bombings in the metropolis that killed more than 20 people.
An escaped key member of an al Qaeda-linked terror group was believed to have been killed Sunday in a shootout with Philippine troops and police, the military said.

Fathur Al-Ghozi, the top bomb-maker for the southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiya, became one of Asia's most-wanted men after escaping from Manila police headquarters in July. He had been serving 12 years for illegally possessing explosives.

Al-Ghozi — a confessed member of Jemaah Islamiyah — was believed to have died around 8 p.m. Sunday in Pigkawayan town, in North Catabato province, in a shootout with military and police, Army Maj. Gen. Generoso Senga said.

The body was being identified, but the military was confident it was al-Ghozi.

The operation was led by the Presidential Anti-crime and Emergency Response (PACER) team. "This operation has been going on for a long time now, but it looks like PACER got him," Senga said. "The body is being verified. It's better to be sure."

Other officials would not confirm the report but said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was expected to make an announcement Monday.

Al-Ghozi has admitted involvement in a series of bombings in December 2000 in Manila that killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others.

His apparent killing came on the anniversary of the nightclub bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali, blamed on Jemaah Islamiya. The group also was blamed for the terror blast at the Marriott Hotel in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in August.

His escape was a major embarrassment for President Arroyo, coming while Australian Prime Minister John Howard was visiting to discuss counterterrorism cooperation.

Officials had expressed concerns that the chance of a terror attack was higher with al-Ghozi at large, and President Bush is to arrive in the Philippines for an eight-hour visit next Saturday.

Al-Ghozi slipped out of a police headquarters compound with Omar Opik Lasal and Abdulmukim Edris, two suspected members of the brutal Abu Sayyaf group, also linked with al Qaeda.

Lasal was arrested Friday elsewhere in the southern Philippines. Edris was killed in August after he allegedly tried to grab the gun of a soldier shortly after he was nabbed at a roadblock.