A new Jihadist group is believed to have carried out the bombing in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and wounded scores late last month.
The group is called “Al Khilafa Al Islamiya (AKAI)”, according to an intelligence and assessment report that was shown to the The Manila Times.
The report said Al Khilafa has links with Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), which is associated with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Al Khilafa was organized by a certain Ustadz Human Abdul Najid early in 2012, the report said.
While in Afghanistan, Najid was reportedly asked by an unidentified Afghan to go back to Mindanao and set a group made up of Muslim militants.
Back in Mindanao, Najid got in touch with some of his contacts in Abu Sayyaf and laid out a plan to bomb certain areas in Mindanao.
The report said Najid linked up with an Abu Sayyaf Group led by a certain Abu Said. The group is being held responsible for the bombing of a bus in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City, on August 8 last year.
Najid’s group teamed up with JI operative Zulkipli Bin Hir alias Marwan to bomb the Maxandra Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City on December 24, 2012, the report said.
Najid also set off a bomb near a pension house in Iligan City to test the proficiency of his recruits.
A certain Abu Janiti and Abu Katab, both believed to be Moro rebels, joined Najid’s operations to entice young Muslims to join the Al Khilafa.
A Manila police intelligence agent who asked not to named said the Al Khilafa uses a black flag as its banner, and maintain ties with Moro rebel groups in Mindanao, particularly with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Professor Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) said his group has monitored the same Jihadist group in Mindanao.
“There’s a new shadow group of jihadist formed and raising a black flag in Mindanao,” said Banlaoi, whose organization is doing research on terrorism in the Southern Philippines.
On Thursday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd pointed to three groups, among them the Abu Sayyaf, who he said are responsible for the recent bombings in Mindanao.
Speaking to reporters during his visit to Davao City, the President said the three groups that have “joined forces” to mount attacks and derail the peace process.
”He said the groups “are desperate to obstruct the peace process in Mindanao.”
Reports earlier said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), claimed responsibility for the roadside bombing in Maguindanao on Wednesday that wounded at least seven soldiers.
Military intelligence, meanwhile, said the Abu Sayyaf and some MILF units have joined forces in Albarka, Basilan. The President said he is “not at liberty to tell you all of the details in the operation to neutralize and capture all of these people wanted by the government.”
He added that he will meet again with the Cabinet security cluster in Malacañang.
”There is a theory that all of these bombings are related to that to lessen the pressure of ongoing follow-up operations against these BIFF elements that attacked North Cotabato,” Aquino said.
The President said rewards will be offered for information leading to the arrest of suspects in the bombing incidents.
”Part of what I will be appealing for later on is greater citizen involvement in detecting suspicious either individuals or activities to increase,” he said.
Asked if the attacks could spill over to major cities in the south, Aquino said, “They have aspirational plans. There are always reports of this intention, Davao in particular, but they are prevented by the strict security here.”
He warned the people behind the attacks they will feel “the full brunt and might of the of the State’s response.”
“You will not get in the way of the peace and the stability that will help fulfill the potential of Mindanao,” Aquino said in his speech during the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference.
In just a span of two weeks, two deadly bombings have rocked Mindanao. On July 26, an explosive went off in a bar at the Limketkai shopping complex in Cagayan de Oro City, killing at least eight people and wounding nearly 50 others.
On Monday, a car bomb exploded in Cotabato City and killed eight persons and injured at least 30 more.
The President claimed that the bombing incidents are “desperate act by a small sector” dead set against the attainment of peace in Mindanao.
The government, he said, has been working to neutralize these elements and a “few successes” have been attained.
“It was vital for us to achieve lasting peace and stability in Mindanao so that those affected by the tensions could get their lives back, so that they could hold steady jobs, so that businesses—both big and small—could focus on efficiency and innovation instead of just worrying for their safety; all this with the greater vision of inclusive growth for all Mindanaoans,” Aquino said.
Metro among targets
Also on Thursday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin did not rule out the possibility of a terrorist attack in Metro Manila.
“It is possible but we are doing everything we can to ensure that it will not happen in Manila,” Gazmin said.
The President, he said, has ordered a “target hardening” or higher security alert, particularly in areas where there is a bigger concentration of people, like malls and churches as well as on vital government installations.
Gazmin said police visibility was increased and intelligence agents have been deployed to monitor and identify persons with the capability to stage terror attacks.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Public Information Chief Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) has assigned 500 more police officers in Metro Manila.
“This is action framework against terrorism… these additional police personnel came from the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), NCRPO and some intelligence personnel,” Sindac told reporters in Camp Crame.
He said that they have not monitored any activity or reports of possible attack in the metropolis.
He said that 150 additional personnel were assigned to Quezon City Police District (QCPD); 150 to Southern Police District (SPD); 75 to Northern Police District (NPD); 75 to Eastern Police District (EPD) and 50 to Manila Police District (MPD).