Philippine court convicts bomber in Muslim congressman’s death

In this Nov. 19, 2007, file photo, left to right; from right, suspects Adnam Kusain, Ikram Indama and Caidar Aunal linked to the blast at the House of Representatives are lined up at the Department of Justice in Manila. Indama was convicted of multiple murders on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, while Kusain and Aundal were acquitted. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, FIle)
Updated 18 November 2017
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Philippine court convicts bomber in Muslim congressman’s death

MANILA, Philippines: A Philippine court has convicted a man for a daring 2007 motorcycle bombing that killed a Muslim rebel-turned-congressman and three other people and wounded 10, including two legislators.
Judge Ralph Lee of the Regional Trial Court Branch 83 on Friday convicted Ikram Indama but acquitted two other key suspects in the Nov. 13, 2007, bombing that killed Rep. Wahab Akbar as he walked out of a lobby at the House of Representatives.
Indama, who has links to Abu Sayyaf extremists, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a copy of Lee’s decision.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said that Indama, a cousin of a notorious Abu Sayyaf commander in the country’s south, brought the motorcycle laden with a bomb and was identified through closed circuit television.
Ong said the attackers had also plotted to kill Akbar before, including the previous day, but he was absent from the lower house.
Former Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, who survived the bombing with leg and back wounds, head burns and a shattered ear drum, welcomed the conviction but said government investigators should continue efforts to identify the other suspects involved in the attack.
“We should not be content with just being told that the one who planted the bomb in the motorcycle has been taken in,” Ilagan said by phone. “The next question is, who ordered him to do so and what was the motive?“
Ilagan, now a social welfare undersecretary, recalled that she was about to board her van from the lobby when “a flash of light illuminated the area followed by a loud, loud explosion that forced me and my aide like a strong wind.” Her driver died and she later realized she was hit when she felt her leg was bloodied as she lay in the darkness.
Akbar was reportedly among the original leaders of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group when it was established in the late 1980s on the southern island of Basilan. He later had a falling out with the militants, was elected Basilan governor and backed US-backed offensives in his province against the militants, who are notorious for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.
As governor, Akbar had been blamed for a brutal crackdown against Abu Sayyaf militants, who had plotted to retaliate against him, anti-terrorism authorities said.
The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization.
Akbar also headed a political dynasty that has long ruled Basilan, a poor, predominantly Muslim province that, under him, became a showcase of US-assisted war on terrorism at the time. His political rivals were among the suspects in his killings but were later cleared by the court.
Three other suspects, Hajjarun Jamiri, Benjamin Hataman and former police officer Bayan Judda, remain at large and are the targets of a police search, the court said.
Aside from threats posed by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, the southern Philippines has also faced intense political and clan rivalries that are often accompanied by bloodshed and assassinations.


US security chief in Moscow as nuclear treaty hangs in balance

Updated 22 October 2018
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US security chief in Moscow as nuclear treaty hangs in balance

  • John Bolton is expected to discuss Trump’s plan to jettison the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Putin
  • “It is the United States that is eroding the foundations and main elements of this pact” said Putin’s spokesman

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington’s withdrawal from a key Cold War-era nuclear treaty would make the world more dangerous, as Donald Trump’s national security adviser met senior Russian officials in Moscow.
John Bolton is expected to discuss Trump’s plan to jettison the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
On Monday, Bolton discussed the fate of the treaty with Russian Security Council Chief Nikolai Patrushev and was expected to meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later in the day.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that ditching the treaty “will make the world more dangerous” and rejected US claims that Moscow has violated the pact, instead accusing Washington of doing so.
“It is the United States that is eroding the foundations and main elements of this pact” with its missile defense capabilities and drones, he said.
Lavrov said he was waiting to hear Bolton’s “official explanation” regarding Trump’s intentions, adding that for the moment the US side has not initiated the official procedure for exiting the treaty.
Trump on Saturday claimed that Russia had long violated the treaty, known as the INF.
“We’re the ones who have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” he told reporters.
“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” he said.
“And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we’re not allowed to.”
Trump’s announcement raised global concerns, with the European Commission urging the US and Russia to pursue talks to preserve the treaty and China calling on Washington to “think twice.”
The Commission, the 28-nation European Union executive, stressed that the INF has been a mainstay of European defense for the last three decades.
“The US and the Russian Federation need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented,” spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters.
She said the agreement was important for both European and global security.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said a unilateral withdrawal from the treaty “will have a multitude of negative effects.”
Trump argued that the treaty does nothing to hold non-signatory China back from developing missiles, but Hua said that “it is completely wrong to bring up China when talking about withdrawal from the treaty.”
The treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles was signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader.
Gorbachev on Sunday said that “dropping these agreements... shows a lack of wisdom” and was a “mistake.”
The INF resolved a crisis over Soviet nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles targeting Western capitals.
The latest row between Russia and the United States comes ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Putin this year.
Analysts have warned that the latest rift could have lamentable consequences and drag Russia into a new arms race.
The Trump administration has complained of Moscow’s deployment of Novator 9M729 missiles, which Washington says fall under the treaty’s ban on missiles that can travel distances of between 310 and 3,400 miles (500 and 5,500 kilometers).
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said that Bolton himself is pressuring Trump to leave the INF and had blocked talks to extend the New Start treaty on strategic missiles set to expire in 2021.
US-Russia ties are under deep strain over accusations Moscow meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The two countries are also at odds over Russian support for the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, and the conflict in Ukraine.
On Friday, the US Justice Department indicted the finance chief of Russia’s leading Internet troll farm for allegedly interfering with US congressional elections to be held in November.
Russia accused the United States of fabricating the charges.
Putin and Trump will both be in Paris on November 11 to attend commemorations marking 100 years since the end of World War I.