PAGADIAN CITY – Was the latest suicide attack in southern Philippines carried by a foreigner or a man disguised as a woman in hijab to conceal the explosives belt under the traditional garb?
Police and military reports said a woman blew herself up before dusk Sunday near an army checkpoint in the Muslim province of Sulu. The explosion occurred even before the bomber could get near the checkpoint just outside the camp of the 35th Infantry Battalion in the village of Kajatian in Indanan town.
No soldiers were killed or wounded in the powerful blast, but the explosion obliterated the bomber. The identity of the attacker remains unknown, but the military’s Western Mindanao Command said the bomber was “foreign-looking” and that a severed arm recovered in the area was similar to that of a man.
“The suicide bomber was in an abaya attire, a woman and foreign-looking with long hair based on the recovered mutilated head; however, the recovered dismembered hand is similar to that of a man,” it said, adding, forensic investigators were sent to the village to piece together all recovered evidence.
The trigger mechanism used by the bomber to detonate the explosives was also recovered, it added.
A separate police report said a soldier, Corporal Asmada Sabdani, of the 35th Infantry Battalion, noticed the suspicious woman, who was wearing a black hijab approaching the checkpoint and warned her. Sabdani quickly took cover and ordered the woman to stop, but she blew herself up.
“Initial investigation disclosed that on on the above-cited date and time, CPL Asmada S Sabdani of 35IB PA noticed a female person wearing black hijab known as abaya who was walking along the road of the KM3 Highway going to the Camp of Alpha Company, 35IB (PA) located in the aforementioned place. When she was about to enter the gate, the duty guard took cover himself and warned the suspect. However, the suspect detonated an IED causing her body to be blown/shredded into pieces. No casualty was reported as a result of the incident. Post-blast investigation and crime scene processing is ongoing,” the report said.
The latest suicide bombing was the second in Kajatian village and the third in Sulu since early this year. In January, an Indonesian ISIS couple simultaneously detonated their explosives belt inside and outside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo town and killing over 2 dozen mostly soldiers deployed at the church.
And it was followed by twin suicide attacks in June by 2 Abu Sayyaf militants at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in the village of Kajatian that killed eight people and wounded 22 others which was eventually claimed by ISIS.
ISIS also claimed a suicide attack on an army checkpoint by a Moroccan militant, Abu Katheer al Maghribi, in Lamitan City in the neighboring Muslim province of Basilan in August 2018. At least 11 soldiers and pro-government militias were killed in the attack.
All the suicide bombings occurred despite an extended martial rule in the troubled region where security forces are battling Filipino and foreign Islamic extremists.
Just recently, a motorcycle bomb exploded outside a public market in Sultan Kudarat’s Isulan town and wounded at least 7 people. The powerful blast was claimed by the Islamic State – it was the 3rd time that the town was attacked since last year.
The motorcycle, rigged with explosives, was parked outside the market when it went off and wounded those nearby, including a traffic constable. It was unclear how the bomber managed to sneak into the town, passing through several police and military checkpoints and road blocks and left the motorcycle bomb undetected by authorities.
In April this year, over a dozen people were injured when a motorcycle rigged with explosives also went off outside the Carlito’s Chicken restaurant in Isulan town. The blast coincided with the town’s 61st founding anniversary.
A similar attack – claimed by the Islamic State – also occurred in August 2018 when a motorcycle bomb exploded outside a row of shops in Isulan and wounded several civilians.
The BIFF was believed to have carried out the two previous bombings and possibly the latest attack. It was not immediately known if the attack was connected to the surrender of the MILF rebels to the government.
Security forces have been fighting several Islamic extremist groups in the southern region where President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the armed forces to crush terrorism. (Zamboanga Post)
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