AFP, PNP: Ajang-Ajang carried out blasts
The police and the military on Thursday insisted that the Abu Sayyaf’s Ajang-Ajang group was the prime suspect in the deadly bombing at a Catholic church in Jolo, Sulu province, on Sunday.
The investigation was still on track and pointed to the involvement of the Ajang-Ajang group, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said.
Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office, said the military was pursuing members of the Ajang-Ajang because it was the only group with a “pattern of atrocities” in Sulu.
In a television interview on Thursday, Albayalde said a notorious bomb maker known only as Kamah had been threatening to attack the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo since his return from Sabah.
Kamah, he said, is a brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf commander.
In Cotabato City, authorities ruled out a possible link between the grenade attack on a mosque in Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City, on Wednesday and the Jolo blasts, saying the mosque attack was triggered by “rido” (family feud) involving the victims and their attackers.
Two possible motives
In a radio interview, Chief Insp. Shellamie Chang, spokesperson for the Zamboanga City Police Office, said the investigation focused on two possible motives: rido, which has been a major cause of violence among families in the area, and politics, as one of the victims was a village councilor in Basilan.
Col. Gerry Besana, spokes-person for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said two “persons of interest” were being investigated in the grenade attack on the mosque that killed two Muslim preachers and injured four others.
Also on Thursday, government forces clashed with the Ajang-Ajang group under a Commander Macrin in Patikul, Sulu, according to Besana.
Former Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, meanwhile, urged authorities to go deeper in their investigation of the church bombing and look into the possible involvement of the Abu Sayyaf group under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.
“[I]t could be the Ajang-Ajang, but we should likewise look at other angles and not believe outright the claims of any group as that could be a diversionary strategy of the [actual] perpetrators,” Tan said.
The Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the Jolo blasts that killed 21 people and wounded nearly 100 others.
It said the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers, but the Philippine military said the claim could not be independently verified.
On Tuesday, soldiers and policemen raided the supposed house of Kamah at Kalimayan Village, Barangay Latih in Patikul, but their target escaped.
A gunfight resulted in the killing of a man the police identified later as Ommal Usop.
Albayalde said results of a DNA test on body parts recovered from the site of the Jolo blasts would determine if the attack was a suicide bombing or not, particularly if the body part was found to have belonged to a foreigner.
“Based on experience, none of our [Filipino] Muslim brothers are really capable of doing this suicide bombing, especially inside a place of worship,” Albayalde said. —REPORTS FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, JULIE ALIPALA, EDWIN O. FERNANDEZ, MART SAMBALUD AND SHEILA MAE DELA CRUZ
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