High alert in Metro Manila after Sulu blast

Metro Manila, the country’s National Capital Region, was placed under heightened alert status following the bombing incident this week in Indanan, Sulu where at least eight people were killed and 22 others were wounded.

“Although there are no threats detected within the NCR, as a proactive means in response to this terror attack, the entire region is now placed under full alert status,” said Metro Manila police director Guillermo Eleazar.

“Having this measure would be of great help in deterring unscrupulous individuals in carrying out their illegal or terroristic acts,” he added.

Two suspected suicide bombers were killed in the blasts last Friday along with three military men and three civilians.

Twelve other soldiers and 10 civilians were also wounded in the incident.

In a related development:

•  Malacañang on Saturday strongly condemned the bombing, with Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo saying the terror group Abu Sayyaf was behind the attack.

“We will pursue them and all other terrorist groups that sow and instill fear among our people. We will run after them until they can run no more,” Panelo said in a statement.

He said the government would harness all its might to destroy the enemies of the state as well as their supporters to secure lasting peace in the region.

“If these bandits have not learned from the terrorists who were annihilated in Marawi, then this time they will,” Panelo said.

According to reports, two alleged suicide bombers, not a grenade-throwing assailant, rushed one after the other into a military camp in Indanan, Sulu and detonated the bombs they were carrying, killing themselves and three soldiers.

A firefight ensued as the bomb explosions were followed by mortar and sniper fires from the companions of the two suicide bombers. The gunfight lasted about an hour.

Eleazar, in a statement, said he was saddened and sent his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the bombings in the vicinity of the military camp in Tanjung.

The NCRPO chief ordered all district and police station commanders under his jurisdiction to intensify police visibility and anti-crime operations at entry and exit points of Metro Manila.

“And so I highly encourage the public to remain alert and vigilant. Report any incident or suspicious person to the nearest police station or you can reach or communicate through our NCRPO hotlines,” Eleazar said.

“Rest assured that Team NCRPO remains steadfast and dedicated for the peace and order in the whole metropolitan area,” he added.

The military earlier said the kidnap-for-ransom group and IS-affiliate Abu Sayyaf was likely behind the midday blast on Jolo.

IS claimed the bombing was the work of two suicide attackers, according to tweets from Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activities worldwide.

The Philippines has renewed its campaign against the militants on Jolo this year after a suspected suicide bomber struck the island’s Roman Catholic cathedral in January, killing 21 people.

READ: Prime suspect in Jolo blast, 4 others give up

The country is home to numerous armed groups, several of which are linked to the decades-old insurgency aiming to create a Muslim homeland in the Christian-majority nation’s deep south.

Friday’s blast blew the roof off the sentry gate of the military camp and blackened its concrete walls, according to photographs of the aftermath of the attack shown on local television.

Three members of the military unit were killed and nine others were wounded, while two civilians—a motor tricycle driver and a woman street vendor—also died in the attack, army spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP.

“This attack is meant to disrupt the intensified security operations and our operational tempo following (a) series of recent operational gains in the area,” Zagala said in a separate statement.

An AFP reporter on the scene saw a blood-soaked man slumped beside a gore-covered motorized tricycle parked on a street outside the temporary headquarters of the 1,500-member First Brigade Combat Team.

The authorities could not say what kind of explosives were used.

Abu Sayyaf was active in the Philippines years before linking up with Islamic State, and has supported its violent activities with kidnapping.

The group has held hostages over the course of years and negotiated ransoms, but has also shown a willingness to kill its captives.

In the same week, a Dutch birdwatcher held for years by the Abu Sayyaf was killed on Jolo during a firefight between his kidnappers and soldiers sent to rescue him. With AFP

Topics: National Capital Region , Metro Manila , Salvador Panelo , Sulu blast , Guillermo Eleazar , Islamic State
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