January 31, 2008 / 12:06 PM / 10 years ago

Bali bomb suspect gives Philippine army the slip again

MANILA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Philippine security forces failed to nab one of two Indonesian militants suspected of masterminding the 2002 Bali bombings when they raided his hideout on a remote southern island, an army spokesman said on Thursday.

Dulmatin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, has eluded the Philippine military and their U.S. advisors for years despite the discovery of his wife in 2006 and his children the following year.

Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said Dulmatin escaped on Thursday after some members of the Abu Sayyaf, a local Islamic militant group, exchanged gunfire with soldiers.

"Our troops were absolutely sure Dulmatin was hiding there," Bacarro told reporters, adding an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander was killed in the brief skirmish.

"We were told Dulmatin escaped during the gunfight. The Abu Sayyaf delayed our troops by engaging them in brief battle."

Philippine and Western intelligence authorities say Dulmatin and Umar Patek have been hiding in the Philippines since 2003 after they fled from Indonesia to escape arrests for the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people in 2002.

Dulmatin carries a $10 million bounty from the U.S. State Department.

Both Dulmatin and Patek have been working with members of Abu Sayyaf, a group responsible for the bombing of a ferry close to Manila in 2004 that killed over 100 people in the Philippines' worst terror attack.

Foreign Islamic militants have a history of helping to train militant Muslims in the southern Philippines, a largely Catholic country, in bomb-making techniques.

Police said they were looking at the possibility Muslim militants were behind Wednesday's bomb attack at a tuna processing factory in the southern city of General Santos that killed four people, including an 11-year old girl. (Reporting by Manny Mogato, editing by Carmel Crimmins)

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