• Five wounded in Cotabato City bomb blast

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    COTABATO CITY: Five people, including a soldier, were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) inside a jeep went off on Tuesday night at Makakua Street near the city plaza here.

    Cotabato City Police Director Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin said the bomb, which was made of a 60-mm mortar shell, exploded at around 8:30 p.m. at the back of a parked jeep while the Philippine Army’s Special Forces were patrolling the area.

    Private Dondon Asuncion Bambao, 23, from the 5th Army’s Special Forces Battalion, sustained minor injury.

    Also injured and brought to the Cotabato City Regional and Medical Center Hospital were Baingan Ango Aliuden, 45; Mambai Datu–manong Olandigan, 33; Abdulrak–man Martin Utto, 22. The other wounded has yet to be identified.

    No groups or individuals have claimed responsibility in the attack but Balquin said a security threat was received in this city last week. He did not give more details about the terror threat.

    On August 5, local officials here along with families and relatives of the victims commemorated last year’s massive explosion that left eight people dead and 30 wounded.

    Meanwhile Maj. Dante Gania, public affairs officer of the 6th Infantry Division, said that an investigation is ongoing though based on initial findings, it appears that the explosion was the handiwork of Basit Usman, a former member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front special operations group, but is now affiliated with the Bansamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Asian-based terrorist cell Jemaah Islamiyah.

    “So far we have no suspect but most likely it is the handiwork of Basit Usman,” Gania said. “It [boob]bears the signature of Basit Usman, referring to the kind of bomb used and the method it was carried out.”

    Gania said he was already informed a week earlier by the city police chief that they received a bomb threat.

    He explained that check points were set up thereafter on roads leading to Cotabato City but the perpetrators still managed to sneak the IED because authorities, under the law, were only allowed to conduct plain–view inspection.

    Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber corroborated the intelligence findings about Usman even as they have yet to receive an official report from the intelligence unit how they would carry out the alleged terror plot.

    Caber further said that as indicated in intelligence reports, Usman’s group was also behind the car-bomb explosion in Kidapawan, Cotabato.

    “Basit Usman is foreign-trained. He is a Filipino JI and we can say that he has a higher level of expertise compared to others when it comes to the use and manufacture of IEDs,” he pointed out.

    Usman’s group is being linked to several bombing incidents in Mindanao, including the firing of a rifle-propelled grenade in a restaurant in Cotabato City on the eve of the celebration of Ramadan in 2013 that left one dead and three injured.

    The same group is also tagged in the August 1, 2013 Cagayan de Oro blast that left eight people dead.

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