FOUR suspected bomb makers belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were identified as behind the separate blasts at the Sulu Provincial Police Office Headquarter and a mosque inside the camp in Jolo on Friday night that injured several police personnel and even civilians, according to the police.
Sulu police identified the four suspects as Muammar Askali, Edimar Isnain, Nidil Bali and Alkam Hadjail, members of the ASG operating in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Basulta) provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Initial investigation by the police showed Askali and Isnain planted a black bag containing improvised explosive devices (IED) in a sari-sari variety store located inside gate 2 of the police headquarters, while Bali, with his companion Hadjail, lobbed the grenade near the mosque.
At least 14 civilians and police personnel were wounded in the separate bomb attacks, it said.
Hours before the explosions, the report said Askali and Isnain were seen at Sitio Tigbao, Barangay Austuras in Jolo onboard with Suzuki Raider motor at 5:30 pm, it said.
Askali and Isnain were also reported to have bought two 81-mm dud ammunition from a civilian in Baragay Buhanginan, Patikul town of Sulu allegedly to make an IED, the report added.
Askali and Isnain were among members of the ASG tagged in various kidnappings in Basulta including the Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen and two teachers in Zamboanga Sibugay, Reynadit Silvano and Russel Bagonoc.
The suspects’ radical team, a Jema’ah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda affiliate, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the same as other radical jihadists operating in ARMM and other areas in Southern Philippines.
Sr. Supt. Abraham Orbita, provincial director of Sulu police, believed that the twin blast on Friday were a retaliatory attack of the ASG over the arrest of other ASG members.
The twin blast in the police headquarters followed the recent attacks on other police stations in Sulu and other provinces in Southern Philippines.
Just this month, authorities regained control of a police station in Hadji Mohammad Ajul town of Sulu after seized by radical jihadists calling themselves as an “ISIS” who also hoisted two black flags near the station similar to radical IS and al-Qaeda international groups.
In Sulu also, the army also recorded two knife attacks at their camps for unknown reasons.
The provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat recently experienced several attacks targeting camps, detachments and personnel of the local police and military.
Because of this, the military and the police are beefing up security in Jolo.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, said the AFP’s Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS) under Col. Alan Arrojado has deployed augmentation forces to conduct security patrols in the area.
Cabunoc said this is to support the Philippine National Police (PNP) that is also beefing up its forces in the area.
The augmentation of the forces, Cabunoc emphasized, is to pre-empt future attacks.
WITH REPORT FROM FERNAN MARASIGAN