Moro rebels’ hand eyed in Iligan blasts

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BOTH the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces suspect the involvement of Moro Islamic Liberation Front renegade commanders in the deadly bombings in Iligan City and another foiled bomb plot in General Santos City Thursday.

The bombings prompted Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus A. Verzosa to order a nationwide alert for terror attacks.

Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu however condemned the attacks and said the government should investigate the blasts before blaming Muslim guerrillas.

“We condemn this to the highest degree,” he said. “We won’t pursue our cause by killing innocent people.”

The blasts in Iligan shook Jerry’s Bargain Center and the Unicity Shopping Center along Aguinaldo Street Extension leaving at least two people dead and more than 30 others wounded. Initial reports placed the number of victims killed between two and six.

Reports from the Police Regional Office 10 identified the two fatalities as Erwin L. Suico, 20, an employee of Jerry’s Bargain Center and Jonas Badelles, a baggage attendant at the same establishment.

Among those wounded were Police Officers 1 Renario Boot and Marvin Apostol, both members of the 4th Company of the Police Regional Mobile Group 10 based in Kolambugan, Davao del Norte.

“We have some suspects and are establishing their relations with the group of a captured Jemaah Islamiyah-trained bomber,” said Verzosa.

He was referring to Guimalodin Edsrafil alias Jams/Parhan Salik, 24, a suspected Jemaah Islamiyah-trained bomber believed to be a key player in scores of deadly bomb attacks in Mindanao who is now being interrogated at Camp Crame.

Verzosa said he has ordered his men to check reports that the bombings could be the handiwork of the group of Ameril Umbra Kato, a wanted Moro Islamic Liberation Front renegade leader.

“We’re establishing their link to these recent incidents and are looking at the bomb signatures,” he said.

Verzosa said he has ordered a nationwide increased alert in the wake of the bombings which happened days before the country commemorates the infamous Rizal Day bombings in Metro Manila that left more than a dozen people dead and more than 100 wounded.

‘MILF mark’

An Army official yesterday linked a rogue commander of the MILF to the bombings in Iligan City Thursday.

In a radio interview, Col. Nicanor Dolojan, head of the Army’s 403rd Infantry Division, said bomb fragments recovered from the blast scene had the MILF’s “signature.”

“This bomb is similar to the explosives they used before,” Dolojan said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

He said the explosives in Thursday’s blasts involved an 81-mm mortar that used a cellular phone as detonating device.

Dolojan pointed to the group led by “rogue” Commander Bravo, who led attacks in Mindanao last August after the Supreme Court blocked the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz was said to be among the vocal opponents of the MOA-AD.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard yesterday ordered tightened security in ports and aboard vessels, in the wake of the Iligan City bombings which came a day before President Macapagal-Arroyo visited the place.