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MANILA, Philippines (Radio Australia, Mar. 3) - In the Philippines, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group says his organization has been receiving money from people close to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Abu Sayyaf leader Hamsiraji Sali has revealed that the Abu Sayaff receives about US$20,000 every year from people close to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

He says Iraqi financial support started coming in when the Abu Sayyaf was able to demonstrate its capacity to put the Philippine government in a bad light.

The Abu Sayyaf leader was referring to the abduction of more than 70 people in the southern Philippines in March 2000 and the kidnapping of foreigners in Sipadan, Malaysia, and in Palawan in the Philippines.

Hamsiraji Sali says the financial support from Iraq is used by the Abu Sayyaf to buy chemicals for bomb-making and to finance the group's daily operations.

He also says firearms are being sent to the Abu Sayyaf by contacts in the Middle East and are transported by way of Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

On Friday, President Gloria Arroyo ordered the Philippine military to crush the Abu Sayyaf in ninety days

March 3, 2003

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