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Philippines Clash Kills Asia's Most Wanted Terrorist
Heda Bayron
VOA, Hong Kong
13 Oct 2003, 09:30 UTC

One of Asia's most wanted terrorists has been killed in a clash in the southern Philippines, three months after his escape from prison. The Philippine government is hailing this as a triumph in its war against terrorism.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is praising local authorities for killing Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi.

The Indonesian fugitive was shot dead Sunday evening after a brief firefight in the southern Philippine town of Pigkawayan - some 800 kilometers from the capital Manila.

In a statement, Ms. Arroyo said the incident shows that terrorists will "never get far" in the Philippines.

"The Philippine government is happy that we have accounted for a notorious terrorist, who is known to be an expert in demolition," said Defense Chief Eduardo Ermita. "It's better for him to be out of the way."

Al-Ghozi, the self-confessed explosives expert for the regional Islamic terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah, escaped from detention in Manila in July. His escape was an international embarrassment to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government and a setback to its anti-terrorism efforts.

Al-Ghozi was arrested in January 2001 in the southern Philippines following a tip from regional intelligence authorities. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison for plotting to bomb Western targets in Southeast Asia. Al-Ghozi was also accused of being the mastermind behind a December, 2000, bomb attack on a Manila passenger train. Twenty-two people were killed in the country's worst terror attack so far.

Al-Ghozi's death came just days before President Bush visits Manila. Terrorism prevention will top the agenda in talks between the two presidents Saturday.

The United States is a committed supporter of the Philippines' campaign to eliminate terrorism. Several Muslim terrorist groups operate in the southern provinces, and the United States assists Philippine troops and police with counterterrorism training and new weaponry.

In a separate development Monday, a court in Jakarta sentenced an Indonesian militant to 20 years in prison for bombing the Philippine ambassador's residence in Jakarta. The 2000 bombing injured the ambassador and killed two people. Abdul Jabar was also found guilty of participating in a series of church bombings throughout Indonesia in December 2000.