Abu Sayyaf bomb plot uncovered ‘months ago’ – peace advocate
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Five months before Sunday morning’s bombing of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the military uncovered a plot by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to bomb the capital town of Sulu province, a peace advocate revealed.
Octavio Dinampo, who teaches at the Mindanao State University in Jolo, told the Inquirer over the phone that military intelligence operatives intercepted plans of the ASG to bomb downtown Jolo.
The military then closed the street fronting the Catholic cathedral to preempt any attacks, said Dinampo, who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in 2008.
The street was closed for about 20 days but was reopened after the public complained of inconvenience.
“Now, we have this very brutal and grisly attack inside a church,” he said.
Dinampo believed the bomb attack was perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf in retaliation to the losses they suffered from the continuing military offensives in the area.
He condemned the incident saying, “This is an act of reprisal and plain and simple terrorism to sow fear among civilians.”
He said the explosions were so loud that he heard it from his house in Sitio Tanjung, Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu, which is three to four kilometers from the blast site in downtown Jolo via the national highway.
“The explosions came about 45 seconds apart. I thought our troops were firing 105 howitzers,” he said in a phone interview.
Dinampo said there were six military brigades currently operating in Sulu to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte activated the 11th Infantry Division in Jolo to augment troops deployed in the province, a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf.
In Cotabato City, Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the commander of the 6th Infantry Division, alerted all military units in mainland Mindanao.
“Heighten the alert level and secure all places of worships, public places or areas of convergence,” Sobejana said in his directive to the Army’s 601st, 602nd, 603rd, First Mechanized Brigade, and First Marine Brigade in Maguindanao, part of Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
He ordered the deployment of soldiers to all churches and mosques across the 6th ID area of operation.
“We will further intensify our intelligence efforts and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart hostile plans,” he assured the public.
Sobejana who heads Task Force Jolo before his assignment as 6th ID chief also asked the public to remain vigilant. /cbb
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.