ARMED men believed to be members of a local terrorist group with links to the Islamic State detonated a bomb Tuesday in a port terminal in Lamitan, Basilan, even as the military finally admitted the presence of nine foreign terrorists in the country.
Senior Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamitan chief of police said the bomb went off on the left side of the main entrance to the terminal in Barangay Kulay Bato at 9:02 a.m.
The explosion damaged a water tank and shattered windows at the terminal but nobody was reported hurt.
The blast came a day after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri confirmed that at least nine foreign terrorist have sought sanctuary in Mindanao for years, assisting local terror units in bomb making techniques.
Iriberri flew to Mindanao shortly after the Jakarta, Indonesia bombing, emphasizing the need for security forces to increase pressure on the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militants coddling foreign terrorists in Basilan, Sulu and Central Mindanao.
Of the nine foreign terrorists, four were Malaysian nationals identified as University Malaya lecturer Mahmud bin Ahmad, former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Bin Awang Raimee, Mohammad Amin Baco and Jeknal bin Adil.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said their compatriots who were enlisted by the Islamic State fled to Mindanao after an intensified crackdown was launched against them in 2013.
Ahmad said the Islamic militants are associated with Daulah Islamiyah Asia Tenggara (Southeast Asia Islamiya Network) with links to IS.
In January 2015, Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir was killed in an encounter with Special Action Force commandos in the ill-fated Operation Exodus in Mamasapano, where 44 policemen were killed.
Army troopers also killed an Indonesian terrorist, Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, a member of the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, along with six Filipino militants, as well as Moho Najib bin Husen last year.
Iriberri said it was not clear if the ASG was receiving funding from IS and other terrorist organizations, including those operating in neighboring Asian countries.
He also said they are investigating reports that an Indonesian terrorist who spearheaded the attack in Jakarta might have fled to Mindanao and eventually established an alliance with the bandits.
A man was questioned then released in the Lamitan bombing, police said.
The terminal explosion came four days after government troops recovered and disarmed three bombs from an abandoned boat off Sacol Island in Zamboanga City on Saturday.
Security forces last week went on full alert nationwide and had enforced stricter security measures, particularly in Mindanao, after the attacks in Jakarta that left eight people, including four terrorists, dead.
The Palace said Tuesday it was still waiting for information from the Cabinet security cluster to determine if the firearms used in the Jakarta attacks really came from the Philippines, as Indonesian police believe.
“There is a regular exchange of information from member countries of the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], especially among the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr.
“Our security forces are closely coordinating with their counterparts regarding this,” said Coloma.
An Indonesian agency investigating cash transfers allegedly channeled to fund terrorist activities in the country has discovered that some money was used to buy weapons from the Philippines, a report said on Tuesday.
The report noted that Muhammad Yusuf, chief of the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, had said that the money had first been transferred by “an individual from a neighboring country in the south [of Indonesia]” to his wife’s and his own account in Indonesia.
“The money then went to a foundation that later sent it to an individual identified only by his initial H,” Yusuf said. This money was later used to buy weapons from an arms supplier in the Philippines, he said. With Sandy Araneta
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