Murder raps filed vs Cagayan de Oro bombers

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KIDAPAWAN CITY—Another explosion rocked Kabacan town in North Cotabato province on Monday as the Philippine National Police brought murder charges against the alleged perpetrators of the July 26 bomb attack in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and injured 46 others.

Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman said a 40-millimeter grenade was fired from a distance and exploded in front of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office at about 4 a.m.

The Comelec office is just 20 meters away from the municipal hall, where Guzman was sleeping in his office when the rifled-fired grenade exploded.

No one was hurt in the explosion, but parts of the Comelec office were damaged, Guzman said.

Guzman, who survived a grenade attack when he was still the village chief of Barangay (village) Poblacion, said he believed he was the target of the attack, the second since Friday night.

“I was sleeping in the town hall. Probably the rifle grenade was intended for me,” Guzman said.

A rifle grenade was also used in Friday night’s explosion. The grenade landed near the house of militiaman Eddie Antolin and exploded, wounding him and four members of his family.

Four other people on the street were also wounded.

Guzman said some local politicians were playing tennis at the municipal tennis court at the time and they could have been the attackers’ targets.

Spate of attacks

Monday’s explosion was the latest in a spate of bomb attacks in Mindanao that authorities blamed on breakaway Moro rebels working together with terrorists, possibly aided by foreigners.

The series of bombings began late on July 26 when a bomb went off at a restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City, where doctors and pharmaceutical representatives were celebrating after attending a national medical conference.

On Monday, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said a group called Khilafah Islamic Movement (KIM), believed to be an affiliate of the global terrorist network al-Qaida, was responsible for the Cagayan de Oro attack.

In a statement, the CIDG said the KIM member who carried out the attack was Usman Hapids, alias “Mam Man.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told the Inquirer over the weekend that KIM was an umbrella organization of rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), which broke away from the MILF in 2008 after the failure of peace talks with the administration of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Sabotaging peace process

The KIM members want to sabotage the peace process between the MILF and the administration of President Aquino, Gazmin said.

The government and the MILF signed a preliminary peace agreement in October last year. They hope to conclude a final peace accord before President Aquino leaves office in 2016.

The PNP has brought murder charges against Hapids and other KIM members for the deaths of eight people in the Cagayan de Oro attack.

Senior Supt. Eliseo Rasco, chief of the CIDG unit in northern Mindanao, said Hapids was “a known member of Khilafa Islamic Movement, a local affiliate of the notorious al-Qaida terrorist group.”

In a report to Police Director Francisco Uyami Jr., CIDG chief, Rasco said KIM had some 40 regular members, eight of them “hard-core followers.”

Another 15 members have been taking an Arabic language course since July, Rasco said.

According to Rasco, complainants and witnesses identified six other KIM members, along with 23 other suspects, on Aug. 8 as responsible for the Cagayan de Oro blast.

Rasco said these suspects had been charged with frustrated murder and malicious mischief.

President Aquino spoke last week in Davao City about three groups that had come together to sow terror in Mindanao to sabotage peace talks between his administration and the MILF.

Aquino did not name the new group, but KIM appears to be that group.

Failed attacks

 

There could have been more bombings in Mindanao during the weekend, but pressure from the military and the police prevented the attacks.

In Cotabato City, scavengers found a sack containing three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on a garbage dump near the city hall on Sunday night.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police director, said Army and Marine bomb experts safely deactivated the three IEDs.

“The presence of police and Marines, who were on heightened alert following intelligence reports that IEDs were on their way to the city, forced the bomb courier to abandon the devices on the garbage dump,” Balquin said.

The IEDs, two fashioned from 60-mm mortars and the other from an 81-mm mortar, were found at about 9:30 p.m. in Barangay Rosary Heights 10, about 50 m away from the city hall.

Pols are targets?

Balquin could not say whether the bombs were intended to kill city officials, who earlier claimed they were targets for assassination following the car-bomb explosion that killed eight people and wounded more than 30 others on Sinsuat Avenue on Aug. 5.

Mayor Japal Guiani said he and his sister, City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, were the targets of the perpetrators of that attack.

The bomb went off just as a convoy led by Sayadi’s vehicle was passing by. She survived the attack, sustaining only minor injuries. But her two motorcycle-riding escorts were killed in the explosion.

Mayor Guiani has offered a reward for information that will lead to the arrest of the people behind the bomb attacks in the city.

At around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, a man threw a hand grenade at security personnel in a department store in the city center. The grenade did not explode.

Police and Marine bomb experts deactivated the PRB-422 grenade.

No one has claimed responsibility for the failed attack.

Originally posted: 7:53 pm | Monday, August 12th, 2013

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