Philippine police link lawmaker's cousin to blast

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MANILA, Nov 21 (Reuters) Philippine police have linked the cousin of a Muslim lawmaker to a bomb attack at the Congress building last week that killed four people, Manila's police chief said today.

Police Director Geary Barias said the cousin of Congressman Mujiv Hataman, who worked at the House of Representatives, had an ''active role'' in the bomb plot that killed Wahab Akbar, a lawmaker representing the southern province of Basilan.

Akbar, a three-term governor of Basilan, won a seat in the lower house of Congress in May 2007 elections after defeating Hataman's brother.

''I can't believe that he would do such things,'' Hataman told reporters after learning that police had sought murder charges against his cousin. ''We have nothing to do with any of these allegations.'' Police said Hataman's cousin was believed to have plotted to assassinate Akbar with five other people at a business establishment owned by former congressman Gerry Salapuddin.

Salapuddin is also a political rival of Akbar. He ran for governor in Basilan but lost against Akbar's first wife in the elections.

Salapuddin has also denied any role in Akbar's death, but his former driver was among three men detained on suspicion they were involved in the bomb attack.

Four people were killed and a dozen were wounded, including two lawmakers, when a motorcycle bomb exploded on Nov. 13 at one of the extrances to Congress. Barias said five men were now being held for the bomb plot and a manhunt has been mounted against Hataman's cousin and two others who were also linked to the blast.

Last night, soldiers and police officers found another bomb hidden in one of the hideouts used by the men who carried out the attack. The six kg main charge, fashioned out from a 105mm howitzer round, was placed in a huge milk tin can, police said.

Barias said the first attempt to kill Akbar was on October. 23 at a hotel in Quezon City, but he did not show up. The suspects had also waited for Akbar for several days at Congress before the plot was carried out on November. 13.

REUTERS SG RK1410

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