Abu Sayyaf plot to bomb Zamboanga City foiled
ZAMBOANGA CITY—A plan to set off a powerful bomb in this city has been foiled with the arrest of a suspected bomber in an operation at dawn on Friday in Sitio Sapah Dulian of Barangay Calabasa here, about 55 kilometers east of the city center, authorities said.
Police Col. Alexander Lorenzo, the city police director, identified the suspected bomber as Omar Mabanza from whom authorities recovered a complete set of improvised explosive devices with powerful components made of ammonium nitrates, fuel oil, triggering devices and blasting caps.
“It’s a foiled bombing. We are looking at this situation as an attempt to divert our personnel from their mission to rescue their cohorts in the Abu Sayyaf group who are imprisoned at the San Ramon Penal Colony,” Lorenzo told the Inquirer on Friday.
A police report said that Mabanza was with Jomar Mohammad, who managed to escape during the police operation by the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) at around 4 a.m.
Lorenzo said Mohammad has a brother in the penal colony and was among those planned to be rescued. The penal facility is 22 kilometers west of the city proper.
The imprisoned bandits were scheduled for transfer to other prisons, Lorenzo added.
He declined to say how many Abu Sayyaf members were in the penal colony for security reasons but Lorenzo said six had already been transferred as of Friday, four in Manila and two in Palawan province.
“We are not just dealing with one or two people here, it’s a big group. We are also studying the relationship of an incident yesterday in one of the drugstores at the city proper,” Lorenzo said, referring to the public panic in a drugstore on Thursday afternoon due to unclaimed baggage.
The plastic biscuit container was unclaimed for almost five hours at Oro Wonder Drug along Magay and Mercado streets, just a few blocks away from the City Hall and the ZCPO headquarters.
It was left at around 1 p.m. by a man who never returned to take it back. After five hours, the drugstore’s security guards called for police assistance.
The immediate vicinity of the drugstore was then cordoned off. The public market was also closed, locking in market-goers, vendors and even passersby as ordnance experts secured the area and inspected the baggage, which was found to contain a handheld radio, shampoo, bath soap, malong (tube skirt) and other personal items.
Lorenzo described the situation on Thursday as “testing the waters, because the malong and handheld radio tested positive of ammonium nitrate, one of the main components for improvised explosive devices.”
He said bomb experts and the city police were now constructing an artist sketch to identify the person who left the baggage inside the drugstore.
“We are tightening the loops now [as] we are not dealing with a single person but a big group. Right now we are having an ongoing pursuit operation and hunting down other colleagues of Mabanza,” Lorenzo added.