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PROTESTANT RADIO ANNOUNCER SHOT DEAD, MUSLIM EXTREMISTS SUSPECTED

Updated: September 23, 1992 05:00 PM GMT
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Gunmen, allegedly Muslim extremists, shot and killed three people here Sept. 20, including a Protestant minister who was a radio announcer, just eight days after Christian and Muslim leaders signed a peace covenant.

Police investigators identified the victims as Pastor Gregorio Hapalla, 55, an announcer at radio station DXAS, the station´s chief technician Gregorio Bacabis, 37, and Julhambri Assari, a Muslim of the Tausug tribe.

DXAS is owned by the Far East Broadcasting Corporation and an affiliate of the Christian Alliance of Churches in the Philippines.

Superintendent Vicente Dumpit of the Zamboanga Metropolitan District Command told UCA News a Muslim fundamentalist group led by an Iranian terrorist was allegedly behind the killing.

Zamboanga City is 850 kilometers south of Manila.

Dumpit said the attack could have been motivated by fundamentalists who wanted to stop Hapalla´s radio program. "Some believe that Hapalla is proselytizing the Muslims," he claimed.

Hapalla quotes Biblical passages during his radio program "Pamahun-Pahun Sin Maghapun" ("afternoon snacks" in the Tausug language). His program was said to have gained acceptance even among non-Christians.

Dumpit said the incident may be related to the killing of Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions Father Salvatore Carzeda in May, the Aug. 23 bombing of the Fort Pilar shrine and the bombing of M/V Doulus, a Christian bookshop, last year.

Previously, authorities had downplayed the possibility that the bombing of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pilar, which left five dead and more than 40 wounded, was caused by violent religious sectarianism.

Police and military personnel were ordered to secure media establishments, Dumpit said, while "security details in Muslim and Christian religious shrines and churches continue."

On Sept. 12 Archbishop Francisco Cruces of Zamboanga and Reverend David Alonzo, representing the Christian community, and Ustadz Abdulgani Yusop and Hajji Amman Nuno, for the Muslims, forged a declaration of solidarity.

The declaration is aimed at "harnessing the resources and energies of our communities towards stability and growth and total development of the western Mindanao region."

The religious leaders resolved to "join hands and set aside the obstruction of religious and ethnic differences and parochial interests."

President Fidel Ramos, who witnessed the signing, described the covenant as "the most important accomplishment achieved."

END

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