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Manila Expels Iraqi Envoy Allegedly Linked to Rebels

February 13, 2003|From Associated Press

MANILA — The Philippine government on Wednesday ordered an Iraqi diplomat allegedly linked to the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf to leave the country within 48 hours.

The decision to expel Iraqi Consul Husham Husain came after the government said Monday that it had an intelligence report indicating that Husain had received a call from an Abu Sayyaf member shortly after an October bombing that killed four people, including an American Green Beret.

The Iraqi Embassy denied Husain or any other embassy officer was involved with rebel groups, including Abu Sayyaf, which is on a U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

"What astonished us was the Philippines following the U.S. campaign of disinformation, which spread allegations about the Iraqi diplomat having links to the Abu Sayyaf group," Iraq's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abu Sayyaf is mainly a kidnap-for-ransom group that has preyed on foreigners; however, it claims to be fighting for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Christian country.

In a telephone conversation Tuesday night with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Bush expressed concern "for the direct terrorist link" to the Iraqi Embassy, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

The Abu Sayyaf has been loosely linked by some governments to Al Qaeda, and U.S. soldiers trained Philippine troops last year on how to better fight the Muslim guerrillas.

Twelve years ago, Manila expelled another Iraqi diplomat under similar circumstances. In 1991, the Iraqi Embassy's first secretary was ordered to leave over alleged links to two Iraqi nationals accused of setting off a bomb at a library in central Manila run by the U.S. Embassy.

One of the two Iraqis was killed in the blast, which came five months after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and triggered the Persian Gulf War.

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