Brother of slain ASG leader among suspects; ISIS hand doubted.
A BROTHER of an Abu Sayyaf leader who was killed in an encounter with security forces in Sulu has emerged as a person of interest in the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombing after he was caught on surveillance camera acting suspiciously outside the crowded church before last Sunday’s twin blasts.
The suspect was named by Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde as one alias “Kamah,” a known bomb-maker said to be a brother of slain Abu Sayyaf leader Sukarah Ingog.
An ABS-CBN report quoted Gen. Albayalde as saying that the improvised explosive device that was detonated inside the cathedral with the use of a cell phone was fashioned out of two kilos of explosive charge. It was believed to have been mixed with nails which turned into shrapnel in the explosion which killed people and shattered church pews and windows.
As of press time, investigators are still analyzing the bomb fragments recovered from the site of the explosion to help identify its signature.
WHO REALLY BOMBED JOLO CATHEDRAL?
Although the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group has claimed responsibility for the twin bomb attacks in Jolo, Sulu which killed 20 persons and wounded 112 others, security officials are not inclined to believe such claim and are doing everything to find out who was really responsible for last Sunday’s carnage, the Journal Group was told yesterday.
The ISIS is known for claiming responsibility for making false claims on terror attacks in many parts of the globe. In October 2017 ISIS claimed responsibility for the actions of 64-year-old mass shooter Stephen Paddock who killed more than 50 at a Las Vegas hotel. The claim proved to be untrue.
ISIS is known for making false claims to bolster their image. In June 2017, ISIS claimed an attack by a gunman at the Resorts World Manila which officials then headed by National Capital Region Police Office chief-turned Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde later determined as not linked to terrorism but the work of a high roller who freaked out after losing all his money in a casino and later decided to rob the establishment.
It turned out that the suspect armed himself with an automatic rifle when he forced his way into the casino-hotel where he fired shots at a stockroom containing gambling chips and stole chips worth P113 million. Fire started by the suspect killed at least 38 persons.
PROBE OF WHO PLANTED THE BOMB INSIDE CATHEDRAL
As of press time, police and military investigators are still determining who really planted the powerful improvised explosive device that went off inside the cathedral killing at least 15 church-goers.
Since 2000, there have been at least 10 reported attacks against the Jolo Cathedral, many of them said to have been carried out by the Abu Sayyaf who are known for carrying out attacks with grenades or IEDs made of mortar rounds.
Officials said that definitely, the bomb could have been left inside the church hours before the explosion since any person who would attempt to leave a package in the site would attract the attention of the worshippers. Besides, soldiers are guarding the entrance of the church.
Meanwhile, probers are reviewing surveillance videos in the area to determine who left a motorcycle which is said to have carried the second cellphone-activated IED detonated by the terrorists seconds after security troops rushed to the site when they heard the explosion.
The terrorists apparently just waited for the right time to blow up the IED targeting in particular the soldiers who rushed inside the cathedral. Investigators said that the 2nd
FOREIGN HAND EYED IN BLAST
Officials said they are not discounting the possibility that the suspects behind the twin explosions were trained by foreign bomb experts. The Armed Forces said they were looking at the possible involvement of a hitherto unknown “Ajang-Ajang Group,” said to be an Abu Sayyaf sub-group, in the blasts. There were reports that the IEDs contained ammonium nitrate fuel which is not commonly being used by the Abu Sayyaf.
As of yesterday, post-blast investigators from the PNP and the AFP are working overtime to reconstruct the IED and find out witnesses that could lead them to the identities of the terrorists.
CONNECTION TO BASILAN BOMBING
Officials who demanded anonymity said they are also investigating if the suspects in the cathedral bombing were connected with the suspects behind a July 31, 2018 bomb blast in Lamitan, Basilan.
Last year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the blast in Basilan which killed at least 10 people, including the driver of the van that exploded, appeared to have been a “suicide bombing” amid findings that the driver of the explosives-laden van was the one who detonated it.
NBI STEPS INTO BOMBING CASE
The National Bureau of Investigation has been directed to conduct a separate investigation into the twin bombings during a Catholic Church service in Jolo last Sunday.
“Our NBI field operatives in Zamboanga have already been sent to assist in the investigation, and additional law enforcement units have been deployed to hunt and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
”It’s mass murder and desecration of a place of worship,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
With Hector Lawas