PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE warned of more terror attacks in Mindanao following the spate of deadly bombings blamed by authorities to pro-ISIS militants fighting for the establishment of a caliphate in the restive region.
Two deadly bombings recently in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province left many casualties, but prior to the attacks which occurred in a span of 5 days; a Moroccan ISIS soldier Abu Katheer al Maghribi exploded his van July 31 in Lamitan City in the volatile Muslim province of Basilan, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga.
ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide attack that left over a dozen casualties. In a post on its Amaq News Agency, ISIS said a Moroccan man carried out the daring assault against Filipino soldiers and identified the executor of the suicide bombing as Abu Katheer al Maghribi. “A martyrdom attack leads to 15 Filipino soldiers being killed in the city of Lamitan on the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines,” it said.
And now Duterte said police and military authorities are anticipating more attacks. “There’s a lot of terror attacks going on, not only here, but all over the world and my country is not an exception. We just had about 2 explosions in one of the provinces in Mindanao…and we expect more. I’m sure your government would be willing to help us,” he said during a visit last week in Israel.
The military has pinned the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters for the twin bombings in Isulan. The Philippine National Police has already sacked two senior police officers in Sultan Kudarat for their failure to prevent the bombings.
The provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Noel Kinazo, and Isulan town’s police chief Superintendent Celestino Daniel were both relieved from their duty. Kinazo was replaced by Senior Superintendent Reynaldo Felestino while Superintendent Junny Buenacosa has been named as the new Isulan police chief.
The Western Mindanao Command did not say whether it would relieve its military commanders in the province for lapses in security. The latest explosion occurred in downtown Isulan near shops, but it was unclear how the bomber managed to smuggle the device that exploded inside an Internet shop.
But the attack showed how poor the security was in the largely Catholic province, especially in Isulan town. The daring attacks also timed while the whole region is under martial rule. The BIFF, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS, is one of several militant groups fighting for the freedom of Muslims in Mindanao. Its members were mostly former Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters.
Governor Mujiv Hataman, of the Muslim autonomous region has strongly condemned the attacks. “The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government condemns these bomb attacks, and recent incidents of violence in Mindanao, in the strongest possible terms,” he said, although Sultan Kudarat is not part of the ARMM.
But Hataman said: “We share cultural ties and bonds of kinship with the people of the province. We in the regional government are fully committed to working with other agencies of government, and with concerned citizens, in safeguarding the communities, and in countering this violence. We denounce the extremism that spawns such violence. These attacks come at a time when peace in Mindanao is at hand, thanks to the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law—a law that is going to be put to the polls for ratification by the people in a referendum.”
“We pray that this violence will not stop the sustained efforts we are all making to create a lasting peace. If we don’t work for peace now, then when can we do this? This peace we seek is for our children, and for the generations to come. We should not let violence hold sway or stop us from achieving this peace we all want and need,” he added.
Security forces have been fighting militant groups in the southern region the past years. The blast occurred following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the armed forces to crush terrorism. (Mindanao Examiner. With a report from Rhoderick Beñez.)
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