A PRIME suspect in the New Year’s Eve bombing of a shopping mall in Cotabato City which killed two men and injured 34 others have surrendered to police authorities after he and his relatives saw television reports identifying him as a probable bomber, Police Regional Office 12 director, Chief Superintendent Eliseo T. Rasco said yesterday.
Salipudin Pasandalan, a 56-year old local resident, denied any involvement in the attack although police said they have circumstantial evidence that the suspect was seen with another backpack-carrying man who was believed to have planted the powerful improvised explosive device.
The suspect was reportedly seen in a comfort room and a lottery outlet with the suspected bomber himself.
Rasco said the suspect has been placed under police custody and is now undergoing investigation in the aftermath of the bombing which is believed to be either the handiwork of a terror group or supporters of rival politicians in the area.
Last week, the Central Mindanao police director released the photos of two men believed to have carried out the attack including that of Pasandalan. The screen-grabbed photos were taken from CCTV camera recordings of the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City moments before the deadly explosion.
One of the suspects was caught leaving the improvised explosive device at the mall while the other served as a ‘lookout.’
The bomb carrier was seen wearing a blue T-shirt and carried a backpack while the ‘lookout’ sported a green shirt. Police released the pictures of the two lifted from the CCTV footage hoping that the public can give them information that would lead to the capture of the bombers.
A P500,000 reward has been offered by the Cotabato City local government for the capture of the suspects.
Security officials maintained that the blast in Cotabato City was the handiwork of a breakaway faction of a secessionist group based only in Mindanao and whose motive is to retaliate against ongoing military offensive which have caused them major losses.
Officials placed the terror threat in Central Visayas at a ‘moderate level’ and said enough security measures are already in place in all places of convergence including airports, seaports and bus terminals.
Police are eyeing an ISIS-inspired terror group in the bombing of the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City. “Most probably, an ISIS-inspired local terror group was behind the attack,” said PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana Jr. said without elaborating.
Journal Group sources also said that investigators are looking into the possibility that the bombing could be the handiwork of the group of one Salahuddin Hassan whose son and brother had been killed in recent anti-crime and anti-terror operations by security forces in the region.