CASUALTIES in the car bomb explosion that ripped Monday afternoon through a busy street in Cotabato City rose to eight after three of 30 injured victims expired in hospital, police said yesterday.
Tension also ran high in this mixed Muslim-Christian community, especially among relatives and followers of City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr., whose family the police initially tagged as the prime “target” in the bomb attack that instantly killed two of his sister’s escorts.
Guiani told a radio station here yesterday that “local governments here condemn to highest degree the attack”, saying the blast aggravated the plight of over 30,000 residents currently displaced by incessant flooding.
“Big group was involved in this terroristic attack,” he added.
Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, said investigators were pursuing a few angles, including lingering threats hounding the family of the city mayor.
Sayadi said that they were receiving death threats through text messages—the unresolved security issue in the country—from unnamed quarters prior to the bomb attack. She and her escorts were en route to one of inundated villages in the city to supervise relief services for displaced flood victims at the time of the explosion.
The bomb, believed rigged inside a car parked across a funeral parlor on Sinsuat Avenue here, went off at about 4:30 p.m. as the mayor’s Chevrolet Suburban sports utility vehicle carrying the mayor’s sister City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, passed by, Balquin said.
The police official said that blast shrapnel and splintered metal parts of the bomb carrier-car immediately took live of his sister’s escorts—Samsodin Hari and Usop Lajinapawan—it did not penetrate the mayor’s bulletproof vehicle.
The explosion also took three bystanders, who were named as Sangkala Satol, Saiden Minat, and Harris Punto.
Balquin said that as of 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday only 13 out of the 30 wounded who were rushed to the hospitals, remained confined. Two of them are boys named Jeddin Menak, 9-year-old; and Nasrudin Guialel, 14-year-old; and also one of them is SP04 Mama Manambuay, a member of the Maguindanao provincial police intelligence unit.
SPO4 Manambuay was with his superior, Inspector Abubakar Mangelen Jr., aboard a police car also passing through the busy street junction at the time of the blast.
Relatives were poised yesterday to transfer Insp. Mangelen from CRMC to Davao City due to his serious wounds, it was learned.
The 30 wounded were named as Adam Haron, Aidee Chan Olen, Alia Ulama, Allan Karuana, Alsaima Ulama, Andy Alimon, Ana Jane Ismael, Chuadi Salik, Diamna Ali, Edison Antolin, Emily Lu, Edwardo Medgar, Erlindan Dicain, Ibrahim Opam, Ivy Libradilla, Jeraisi Minat, John Anthony Pasrudin, Laisa Manguda, Mampen Macapages, Mikael Almiroda, Mokan Hamza, Nelsin Lasam, Norhaina Abbas, Normina Mama, Omar Ali, Richie Chan Visanes, Ruby Buhat, and Sarah Minat.
The explosion sparked a fire that gutted two buildings including Villa Funeral Home located in front of the blasted site, and six other vehicles nearby were also wrecked in the explosion.
Chassis and engine numbers of the carrier car broke up in pieces were recovered by the authority and they are currently coordinating to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to identify its make and registered owner.
According to investigators, the Monday’s explosion here was the first car bomb case here. Previous bomb attacks involved hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mostly rigged from mortar shells, planted in basements.
Investigators were not discounting other motives in the latest blast, saying it could be another handiwork of “spoilers” of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) current peace process.
MILF officials said they would conduct separate investigation on the incident, asking the public not to make unnecessary speculations that may just compound the confusion and tension.
Officials in adjacent provinces including Governors Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza of North Cotabato and Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao also condemned the attack, asking their respective police establishments to prevent a spillover of the tension to their turfs.
Senior Supt. Danny Peralta, North Cotabato police director, placed his command on “full alert” after the incident and ordered tight security along the highway linking this city to his province.