ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–The military on Thursday said it was quite certain that the Abu Sayyaf was behind Wednesday night’s grenade blast outside the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu that left two people wounded.
“Right now we see the grenade throwing (incident) as the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf,” Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Cenabre issued the statement as the Sulu police said they were still trying to establish the identities and the motive of those behind the blast that took place along Arulas Street at 7 p.m.
The grenade explosion caused minor injuries to 19-year old Shaima Pakanna, a resident of Sitio (sub-village) Boutan in Indanan town’s Kajatian village; and Romano Saijuan 25, a resident of Zone 3 in Tulay village, Jolo.
Pressed on what his basis is for linking the blast to the Abu Sayyaf was, Cenabre cited the spate of attacks–which Malacañang attributed to the shadowy Khilafah Islamic Movement in some parts of Mindanao, “bandits will definitely ride on the issue.”
But Chief Inspector William Conrad Gutierrez, the information officer of Sulu police office, said they do not even have any suspect yet.
“We still don’t have suspects, we still cannot say who was responsible for the explosion,” Gutierrez said.
He said the police could only come out with further statement on the blast if the Jolo police had already wrapped up its investigation.
“(The Jolo police) is still conducting an investigation by gathering more information from (witnesses near) the church, from the nearby establishments and from the two victims, who were hurt in the explosion,” Gutierrez said.
He said elements of the police’s Scene of Crime Operation had recovered a safety lever, which boosted earlier theory the explosion was caused by a grenade, but it was not indicative of who the suspects could be.
But while saying the Abu Sayyaf’s link to the blast had not been established yet, Gutierrez said the police were certain that the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, which is led by Nur Misuari, had no involvement in the attack.
Earlier, Misuari’s group came out with a declaration of independence for Sulu.
“We could not see any link either,” Cenabre said when asked if Misuari’s group might be involved in the grenade attack.
Gutierrez said as a result of the explosion, more soldiers and policemen have been deployed in Jolo “for target hardening of vital areas and installations.”