TACLOBAN CITY—The Philippine National Police in Eastern Visayas said on Tuesday that the Maute terrorist group in Mindanao was behind the Dec. 28, 2016 town plaza bombing in Hilongos, Leyte.
No group has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director, Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, said that the explosive device used in Hilongos is of similar design and signature to those planted by the Maute group in Davao and Cotabato bombings and even in the foiled explosion attempt in front of the US Embassy.
The police declined to name the suspects, but they are aware of their location.
“Per intelligence information we gathered, the main suspect is really a member of the Maute group, but there were three of them who planned and executed the bombing. They were sighted few a days before the bombing, and hours before the bombing,” Beltejar told reporters.
Citing intelligence reports, the police regional chief confirmed that local drug syndicates financed the Maute group to launch the retaliatory attack on Dec. 28, 2016 that injured 35 viewers of an amateur boxing match.
The bombing happened after the Oct. 22, 2016 arrest of Raidah Ampaso Sarip, a native of Marawi City and resident of Hindang, Leyte for illegal drugs trade and production of fake money.
“This is also a way for the Maute group to show that they are a force to reckon with to get the nod of ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] for affiliation and also for fund purposes,” Beltejar said.
The police is speeding up the investigation relative to the explosion incident that spoiled the town’s fiesta celebration.