Cops eye politics behind 2 blasts in Basilan

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–The explosion that occurred just outside the house of Lamitan Vice Mayor Arleigh Esma and a second blast minutes later outside a chapel in Lamitan, Basilan Thursday night might have been politically-motivated, the Basilan police chief said Friday.

No one was reported hurt in both explosions, the first of which occurred around 9 p.m. outside Eisma’s house on Aguinaldo St. but the mayor’s pickup truck was damaged in the initial blast.

However, while believing the attacks could have been intended for Eisma, whose Zamboanga City-based lawyer survived an ambush last Saturday, Supt. Mario Dapillosa, the Basilan police chief, said the explosions could also be part of the Abu Sayyaf’s “diversionary tactic.”

Dapillosa said the Abu Sayyaf might have staged the bomb attack outside Eisma’s house and another explosion, which occurred a few minutes later, outside the main gate of the San Isidro chapel in Barangay Colonia, also in Lamitan, to draw the military’s attention away from a larger group in Ungkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo towns.

Since Monday, the military has been pounding on the group led by Puruji Indama and Isnilon Hapilon, which has been reportedly protecting suspected Malaysian terrorist Amin Baco.

But Eisma, the Liberal Party’s mayoral candidate for Lamitan, said he tended to believe the first police theory that the blasts were politically-motivated.

“The (first) bomb was planted at the rear portion of my vehicle. (Everyone knows that) I always use that vehicle for my campaign,” he said, adding that the area where the second explosion took place was populated by residents who had expressed support to his mayoral bid.

The vice mayor said he and his campaign team were fortunate enough because they decided to park the pickup truck outside the gate and not in the garage.

“If we had parked it in the garage, only God knows what would have happened,” he said.

In supporting his theory that the blasts were politically-motivated, Eisma claimed there had been previous attempts on his life. He also cited Saturday’s ambush on his lawyer, Zamboanga City-based Homer Mabale.

Mabale was on his way home with his aides, siblings Gerome and Manuel Lozada, when the car they were riding was fired upon by armed men inside Lopez Subdivision in Barangay Tugbungan in Zamboanga City. Mabale, who helped Eisma file charges against some personalities, was wounded in the attack while the Lozada brothers were killed.

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