January 23, 2009 / 7:06 AM / 11 years ago

Three rebels given life term for Manila bombings

Philippine police escort Mukhlis Yunos, head of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) special operations group, at the police headquarters in Manila in this June 9, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Erik de Castro/Files

MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine court sentenced three Muslim rebels to life imprisonment on Friday for multiple bombings in the capital eight years ago that killed 22 people and wounded nearly 100.

The three men were members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the mainly Catholic state.

“This is a triumph of justice,” Leopoldo Bataoil, police chief in Metro Manila, told reporters after the court’s verdict was handed down, adding it would boost the government’s efforts to fight terrorism.

Among those found guilty was Mukhlis Yunos, head of the MILF special operations group, who was caught wearing a disguise at an airport on the southern island of Mindanao in 2003.

According to court records, Yunos and his group received instructions and money from leaders of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), Southeast Asia’s regional militant network, to bomb selected targets in Manila, including a light rail network and a commuter bus.

Five blasts occured, in all, on December Dec, 30, 2000.

On Friday, about 100 police officers guarded the courtroom and escorted the three rebels as they were taken back to a detention centre south of the capital.

“We think it’s wrong,” Felix Marinas, a lawyer for the three rebels, told reporters after the trial, adding he would appeal in a higher court. “We think that eventually, it’s going to be reversed.”

Government prosecutors said the Manila attack was in retaliation for the capture of three dozen MILF rebel bases on Mindanao during a four-month army offensive in April 2000.

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