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Philippines security on alert for Catholic feast

Over 100,000 police and soldiers went on high alert across the Philippines on Wednesday to prevent attacks by any extremist groups as Asia's largest Catholic nation prepared for the traditional Filipino All Souls Day observance.

The alert followed a spate of recent bomb attacks by suspected Muslim radicals in Indonesia's Bali tourist resort, which killed over 180 people, and in the Philippines capital and southern Mindanao island, which killed 14.

"We are not aware of specific threats from any group but we are prepared just the same," national police operations chief Major-General Vital Querol said.

As part of a security check, troops on Wednesday detained 28 villagers on the remote southern island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

"They were just rounded up for questioning (on the Abu Sayyaf)," a military spokesman said.

Among potential targets being closely watched are cemeteries, where millions of Filipinos traditionally gather on 1 and 2 November to commemorate All Saints Day. The commemoration, which includes prayer vigils, often turns into occasions for revelry, where families hold picnics beside their dead relatives' tombs, sing songs or play cards.


31 Oct 2002