Blast rocks city in Basilan declared ‘free’ of Abus

Blast rocks city in Basilan declared ‘free’ of Abus

/ 05:04 AM June 20, 2024

Blast rocks city in Basilandeclared ‘free’ of Abus

CRIME SCENE CHECK Police investigators inspect an area in a gasoline station in Lamitan City after an explosion there on June 18. The blast shocked residents as it happened on the day the city was declared free of the presence of Abu Sayyaf. —photo courtesy of Lamitan City Police office

LAMITAN CITY, BASILAN, Philippines — A blast from an improvised bomb rocked this city on Tuesday night, just hours after authorities declared it as free from the presence of the terror group Abu Sayyaf.

Lt. Col. Arlan Delumpines, city police director, said the explosion occurred at 6:55 p.m. in a gasoline station owned by the Mateo family at Barangay Matibay, injuring Alwadun Asnain, 20, a resident in the village.


Delumpines said the bomb was placed in front of the gas station’s fuel dispenser.


READ: Abu Sayyaf now ‘dismantled’ after over 30 years – Westmincom chief

It was not yet known if the bomb used a mobile phone as a trigger. Delumpines said investigators recovered from the explosion scene remnants of a blasting cap and cell phone battery.

The blast sent renewed shockwaves among residents about the security situation of the city, as it happened some 10 hours after Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman Salliman declared the city to have been freed of the scourge of Abu Sayyaf’s presence.

Salliman had ordered a thorough investigation, while Lamitan Mayor Roderick Furigay appealed to residents to stay calm and vigilant, stressing that authorities were on top of the situation.

Delumpines said that Noel Mateo, the gas station owner, told police that he received a bomb threat in April as part of an extortion demand.

The public announcement of the end of bandit presence in the city was widely welcomed by residents who still had fresh memories of the July 31, 2018, explosion at Barangay Bulanting that left 11 people dead and five seriously wounded.


“We used to have unstable peace and order here. You can always hear gunshots, and we are always worried when we harvest our crops,” rubber farmer Bernon Muhamad, 39, recalled.

READ: Foreigners are safe in Basilan, says gov

Muhamad said that because of the instability, his family was always prepared by keeping some of their clothes and other belongings wrapped in blankets and “malong” that they could immediately haul whenever armed encounters broke out.

Muhamad added that due to lawlessness, he could not finish high school and hence ended up working as a farm worker for a politician who owned a rubber farm.

Formal declaration

Lt. Col. Serapion Lagud Jr., commanding officer of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion, said that Lamitan had long been freed of Abu Sayyaf; hence, it is fitting to have the formal declaration.

“People in the barangays made their manifesto attesting that there are no longer bandits operating in their respective areas,” Lagud said.

Before the declaration, Furigay said the Local Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict convened with all barangay leaders present. The local council also passed a resolution declaring Abu Sayyaf “persona non grata” in Lamitan.

“Our city is progressing, more developments like roads, power and commercial establishments are established, for almost six years, there have been zero atrocities perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf,” Furigay noted.

Dr. Arlyn Jawad Jumao-as, chair of the nongovernment group Save the Children from War in Basilan, also welcomed the declaration, saying “it means a lot” for the city still reeling from the “perception that it is a place where kidnappings and killings are a way of life.”

“Residents of Lamitan City would regain their sense of security and peace of mind. They can begin rebuilding their lives and plan for a peaceful, progressive future. Such a declaration would also encourage people from the outside to see Lamitan City in a different light—maybe as a place of business, of tourism, of new opportunities,” Jumao-as said.

On June 5, Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, declared the town of Lantawan as Abu Sayyaf free.

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The town was known as the bandit group’s stronghold. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Lantawan was a major battlefield against the group.

TAGS: Abu Sayaff, Basilan explosion

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