Last week, the police raided the apartment of an Egyptian citizen in Cotabato, a city in the Southern Philippines.

“Recovered from El-Sayed’s hideout were highly-combustible charges, detonating cords for improvised explosives, a 60-m.m. mortar ammunition, nine-volt batteries and schematic wiring diagrams for battery-operated blasting mechanisms for bombs,” he said.

Chief Superintendent Willie Dangane, city police chief, said the suspect was planning to make an improvised explosive device that would be set off here before Christmas.

StrategyPage, who usually has sources in the Philippines, also reported

December 17, 2007: It was a busy weekend, with a senior Abu Sayyaf leader was killed in the far south, while about 250 kilometers north of that, a wanted Egyptian Islamic terrorist, and bomb making expert, was captured.

Case closed…or was it?

The local MILF (who has yet to sign a peace treaty with the government) cried foul: Their spokesman said that the Egyptian was merely a teacher at a local Islamic school, and that the military had planted the fake bomb and documents about the MILF.

Of course, the MILF will use this as an excuse to stop peace talks. The fact that their “rogue elements” are with the Abu Sayyaf in other areas of the south that are fighting a losing battle against the Philippine military have nothing to do with any of this.

Now comes a new twist: A big shot leader of Sunni Islam in Egypt declared the guy was an innocent cleric, and demands his relase.

Al-Azhar’s Sheikh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi told Egypt’s official MENA news agency that he was personally following up the case of Sheikh Mohammed al-Sayyid Ahmed Mussa who was arrested by police in the Philippines on Tuesday….Tantawi said he hoped Mussa would be released “within the coming couple of days” and that the arrest was a mistake.

Tantawi has made headlines for condemning terrorism; less publicized are reports from MEMRI and other sites that monitor the Arab news, showing that there are other indications that he has on various occassions supported terrorism as a tactic, or at least supports those accused of inciting terrorism. Others claim he is merely a stooge for the Egyptian government, because of fatwas defending the death penalty and insisting that those guilty of libel should be given sixty lashes. Ouch. There goes freedom of the press.
So what is the truth? Who knows?

What is worrisome is that the Australians posted a warning for their citizens of a possible attack in Manila two days after the arrest. Even if the arrestic “cleric” was not a terrorist, there are other bombmakers with ties to Alqaeda who can make sophisticated car bombs, such as the one who killed an ex Abu Senator a couple weeks ago.

So innocent cleric or stealth terorrist?

The loud protests of innocence from parties that should know the truth suggest someone is upset about the arrest. I wonder why.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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