The powerful explosion that killed eight people in Cagayan de Oro City last week was set off by the group of Basit Usman, a former member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Special Operations Group, military intelligence sources said on Thursday.
The sources said that it is possible that Usman’s group, which is affiliated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), was on a test mission after being trained on bomb making in Lanao del Sur.
The group was trained along with members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Asian-based terrorist cell affiliated with the Al Qaeda.
The sources cited information gathered before the explosion and the result of their initial investigation.
One investigator said they have solid evidence linking Usman’s group to the blast, while another source said the bombing could have been carried out by the BIFF in coordination with the JI and the Abu Sayyaf.
He said members of the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf were trained by Jemaah last year in Lanao del Sur.
Maj. Gen. Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo, the former head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), admitted they have monitored the presence of Jemaah Islamiyah members in Mindanao.
Ordoyo said the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the MILF were also given marksmanship training, based on information they received before the explosion and from the bomb components and materials recovered from the blast site.
The officials said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has stopped them from talking about the case. He said Roxas wants that any announcement about the development on the case should come from his office.
Basit Usman split from the MILF to join the BIFF which is opposed to the peace negotiations between the government and MILF. The BIFF was also responsible for the recent attacks on police and military positions in Mindanao.
The blast that rocked Kyla’s Bistro in Cagayan de Oro last Friday also injured 48 people. The place was packed with delegates of a medical convention. Most of those killed and injured were doctors and representatives of pharmaceutical companies.
Two weeks before the CDO attack, the United States, Australia and Canada issued travel advisories warning their citizens against traveling to Mindanao because of the attacks by criminal gangs and terrorist groups.
ANTHONY VARGAS CORRESPONDENT AND WILLIAM DEPASUPIL REPORTER