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Updated: September 21, 1995 05:00 PM GMT
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Security forces have arrested the man believed to have masterminded the 1993 bombing of San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City, southern Philippines, which killed at least six people.

Police and marine intelligence operatives captured Sahib Ponso, who they say is the urban terrorist force leader of the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf, on Sulu island, about 950 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Ponso´s picture and name had been given to police and military, Brig. Gen. Ponciano Millena, commander of the marines in the southern Philippines, said.

The arrest took place Sept. 11 in downtown Jolo City during a government ceremony attended by top military and government officials.

Some 150 people were injured by three blasts Dec. 26, 1993, the Feast of the Holy Family, during the 6 p.m. Mass at the packed Davao cathedral. The Mass was to launch the archdiocesan observance of the 1994 Year of the Family.

Two explosions inside the church killed two people instantly and a third blast in the parking lot claimed most of the other casualties.

Millena said he believes that Ponso´s capture will result in the surrender or arrest of more Abu Sayyaf terrorists operating in Sulu and nearby Basilan.

Ponso was implicated in the 1992 kidnapings of American language researcher Charles Walton and three Spanish missionary nuns, and in the 1993 kidnapping of Ricardo Tong, a drydock owner from Zamboanga City.

All victims were released, reportedly after their families and even some government officials paid ransom.

"We presume that the arrest of Ponso will resolve the past cases and will give justice to the victims," Millena said.

The military and police have given security assistance to Religious involved in missionary activities in Mindanao´s dangerous spots where Muslim extremist rebels are active, Millena added.

The Davao bombing could have been to sabotage the peace initiatives taken by President Fidel Ramos´ administration, Ustad Sharif Zain Jali, then spokesman of the Sulu-based Moro National Liberation Front, said in 1993.


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