New terror attack injures 29 others
BARELY two days after the United States warned of a possible Al-Qaeda terror against its allies worldwide, a powerful blast which was heard for kilometers killed six people, including a policeman, and injured 29 others in a busy street in Cotabato on Monday.
The police said the explosive device was placed inside a vehicle – either a motorcycle or a “multicab” van, which was parked near a hospital during the afternoon rush hour.
The slain policeman was identified as a certain Senior Police Officer 4 Malambuay of the Police Regional Office-ARMM.
Twenty five of the wounded were brought to the Cotabato City Medical Center while four were taken to the Notre Dame Hospital.
The police identified the injured as Adam Haron, Allan Carugna, Eduardo Malicdem, Ezekiel Almeroda, Lucas Hamsa, Laiza Manguda, Emelie Lu, Harris Unto, Datupeges Mampen, Erlina Dicaing, Alsaima Ulama, Salipudin Sindatok, Richie John Besanes, Edison Antolin, Ivy John Olen, Ana Jane Esmael, Guiamla Ali, Norhaya Abas, John Anthony Badrudin, Jowadi Salik, Nelsie Lasap, Eduardo Melgar, Omar Ali, Mama Manubuay, and Abubakar Mangelen.
On Saturday, Washington issued a global alert on possible terrorist actions following the reported jailbreak of at least 100 militants and criminals from Middle East prisons allegedly committed by Al-Qaeda forces.
It also ordered its embassies and consulates in the Middle East to “temporarily close” as a precautionary measure. The order is to take effect until August 10.
The explosion also came barely three weeks after a similar explosion rocked Cagayan de Oro City on July 26, killing eight persons and injuring almost four dozen others, in an incident which Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas described as an “act of terrorism.”
Aside from the bombings, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has stepped up its attacks against government troops in recent weeks, even as the Nur Misuari-led Moro National Liberation Front faction has threatened to declare independence for Mindanao if the government fails to recognize the 1996 final peace treaty with the MNLF.
BIFF’s attacks and Misuari’s threats came after the Aquino government signed a new peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October, creating a new Bangsamoro entity that would replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Cotabato City Police Acting Director Sr. Supt Rolen Balquin said Monday’s explosion happened along Sinsuat Avenue in front of Hop and Shop Department store leading to the central office of the ARMM near the Notre Dame Hospital at around 4:15 pm.
Balquin said the victims died on the spot after they were directly hit by the blast, which probers said may have been caused by an improvised bomb.
He added that some of the victims’ bodies were sprawled on the sidewalk, while others were thrown out several meters away from the site of the blast.
The explosion also damaged several other vehicles, including three motorcycles, a mini-dump truck and a Mitsubishi pick-up, and even ignited a fire at a nearby commercial establishment.
The car bomb reportedly went off as the Chevrolet vehicle of City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi was passing by the area.
In a radio interview, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said the explosion was heard 700 meters away from his office and triggered power outages.
Shortly after the blast, police and military forces in Mindanao were alerted to prevent further terror acts.
Region-12 Police Director Chief Supt Charles Calima said they are not discounting international terrorist groups as behind the explosion.
Before the explosion, the Philippine National Police had said that it was observing high-level security procedures and protocols to thwart any serious security breach by potential international terrorist following the US terror alert.
In Davao, authorities also issued an alert to deter a possible terror plot by Al-Qaeda link Jemaah Islamiya to disrupt the upcoming two-day Kadayawan Festival this month.
PNP spokesman Sr. Supt Reuben Theodore Sindac said the PNP was exercising intensified defense intelligence system to ensure safety among local and foreign tourists.
“Our own response to this worldwide travel warning is consistent with our own security procedures and protocols, particularly our 3-tiered defense system of intelligence, target-hardening and incident management,” Sindac said.
Sindac said the PNP recognizes the US’ handling of information, but explained that foreign government has the responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens while traveling to different global destinations.
The Foreign Affairs Department, meanwhile, said on Monday that it has not received “any specific information” on the (terror) threat.
Department spokesman Raul Hernandez said that “our embassy, our consulate are monitoring this security situation” and assured that as they find “something” that would compromise the safety of the Filipinos, the Philippine consulate offices will issue “such advisory”.
Hernandez also assured the public that the department would remain vigilant to ensure the safety of their personnel and the security of Filipinos abroad.
Meanwhile, US lawmakers said the terror alert advisory and the decision to close down the embassies was prompted by electronic intercepts of high-ranking Al-Qaeda operatives signaling a major attack.
The intercepts were “probably one of the most specific and credible threats I’ve seen, perhaps, since 9/11,” said Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
An attack appeared to be “imminent,” possibly timed to coincide with the last night of Ramadan, McCaul told CBS.
Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there has been “an awful lot of chatter” among terrorists about planning an attack, all “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11”. With Florante Solmerin, Sarah Susanne Fabunan and PNA/AFP