Government troops foiled two bomb attacks in Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces, military officials said Wednesday.
In the town of Radjah Buayan, Maguindanao, soldiers defused an improvised explosive device where Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu was to turn over a school building in the company of some family members, officials, and a medical mission.
Brig. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, commander of 601st Infantry Brigade, said military personnel on security duty discovered a bundle of three live 81 mm mortar shells wrapped in a plastic bag, apparently planted to go off during the ceremony.
The governor continued with the scheduled turnover despite the bomb threat.
Soldiers, meanwhile, seized anti-personnel mines from two Islamic State-inspired terrorists in the town of Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao.
Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Central, said the land mines were recovered by troops of the 40th Infantry Battalion after a five-minute gunfight with terrorists.
The mines were made of three unexploded 81 mm mortar shells with a triggering device, and taken from two members of the Dawlah Islamiya Toraype Group under Salahudin Hassan, Sobejana said.
He said the soldiers had been tipped off that the explosive devices were being moved to Cotabato City or Midsayap, North Cotabato for a terror attack in an urban area.
“After the bombing in Cotabato City, I instructed the men of our Joint Task Force Central to be on heightened alert to prevent more bomb attacks in Central Mindanao,” Sobejana said, as he commended the troops for their fast action.
On New Year’s Eve, an improvised explosive device planted by suspected fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters went off outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City killing two people and injuring dozens.
Ten days after the explosion, a suspect, Salipudin Pasandalan, 56, surrendered to the authorities but his cohorts are still being hunted.
Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, director of Police Regional Office-12, said two counts of murder and 34 counts of frustrated murder were filed against Pasandalan and a certain Saed Odin Kasin, who is still at large.
The Commission on Elections said Wednesday it is considering putting Cotabato City and the municipality of Daraga in Albay province under its control due to the bomb attack in Cotabato and the killing of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe in Daraga.
Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas said the Comelec en banc received recommendations to place the two areas under its control to prevent more violence before the May elections and to ensure the safety of candidates and voters.
Areas under Comelec control will be secured by a task force headed by one of the commissioners of the poll body and the regional commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police and will be in charge of the area’s security management.
The Comelec official said should the two areas are placed under the poll body’s control, the AFP, in coordination with the PNP, can start deploying troops there. With PNA