ZAMBOANGA CITY: Authorities tightened security in Mindanao on Monday after a deadly bombing that killed three teenagers and left at least 23 others injured in North Cotabato’s M’Lang town.
Capt. Jo Ann Petinglay, a spokesperson for the 6th Infantry Division, said Sunday’s explosion was heard near a shopping store downtown but it was unclear whether the attack was the handiwork of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) or other rebel groups in the restive southern region of Mindanao.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing but police said it is investigating the incident.
The police and military said security has been tightened in areas where rebels are actively operating.
Security forces are battling Muslim and communist insurgents, including terrorists, in Mindanao.
Petinglay released names of the fatalities: John Lawrence Camiring, Jade Villarin and Rex Javier.
Some of the injured were identified as Roel Cordero, Ian Cris Quintanita, Lovelyn Catinoy, Aljamen Aguirre, Erica Mae Jacinto, Jason Cadungon, Jomar Basas, Kenneth Garcia, Ruth Ignacio, Marjan Billones, Apolinario Egoy, Mike Caba and Amar Patad.
A report from the Philippine News Agency identified the victims as John Camiring, Jade Villarin and Francis Rio.
Just recently, an improvised explosive device also went off in Cotabato City, wounding two people—Leslie Encina, 18, and Kristel Mae Uy, 20.
The 6th Infantry Division said a 60mm mortar exploded along Sinsuat Avenue.
It said an unidentified man hurled the improvised explosive.
Soldiers on a passing military truck witnessed the incident.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack but the police and military in the past blamed the BIFF for the spate of bombings and ambuscades in the troubled Muslim autonomous region.
A lone BIFF member also killed three soldiers with the Army’s 9th Intelligence Service Unit last November 18 in the town of Datu Piang, also in Maguindanao.
An army major and two privates who were travelling in a car.
The soldiers also lost their weapons and a laptop to the attackers.
It was the second attack in recent weeks in Maguindanao when some 500 rebels also assaulted the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in the village of Sapakan in Rajah Buayan town.
The attack sparked a six-hour firefight that wounded Cpl. Charlie Dilangsoy.
M’lang police said they already have vital information on the identities of the two suspects believed to have set off an improvised explosive device (IED) bomb that killed the three teenagers and wounded 24 others Sunday night.
The witness, who was near the blast site but survived unscathed, had provided the police with vital information, Senior Inspector Joan Resurreccion, Mlang police chief, said.
Resurrecion added statements were being extracted from the unidentified witness who told police he saw two suspicious looking individuals placed a bag containing the explosive that went off at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
He said the witness also saw the suspects hurriedly leaving on board a motorbike shortly before the blast.
Resurrecion disclosed that the IED that the suspects used was fashioned from an 81 mm mortar with mobile phone as triggering device.
He said it was the same type of bomb used by unidentified men at an overpass in the town of Kabacan, North Cotabato on November 16 that killed a 19-year old Development Communications student and wounded 16 others, mostly students of the University of Southern Mindanao.
“I am so sorry for what had happened. To the [victms’ families], our apologies and condolences, to the wounded, we will extend help for your medications,” Mayor Joselito Pinol said.
Despite the incident, he added, the town of Mlang will still hold its 6th Kawayanan Festival, December 1-7.
Pinol said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will give financial assistance to the wounded who are still confined at various hospitals in Kidapawan City.
Mayor Lani Candolada of the town of Tulunan, North Cotabato, has informed Pinol that her office will also give financial support to those wounded and killed in the bombing.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in a statement, said also on Monday, “We share the grief and sorrow and offer our sincere sympathies to the friends and families of the victims of this dastardly act of terrorism.”
Duterte had also condemned the attack.