Zamboanga City goes off-line amid terror threat
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—The disruption of telecommunication services here, mobile phones included, for about seven hours on Sunday, was deliberate and officials said it helped saved lives.
Edgardo Celorico, director of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in Western Mindanao, told the Inquirer that the disruption was implemented at the behest of the city government.
Celorico said the NTC received a request from the head security of the city government “to temporarily shut down all communication lines within the downtown area … because of security reasons.”
Zamboanga City celebrated Fiesta Pilar on Sunday. A day before, security forces discovered an improvised explosive device in Plaza Pershing. The device had a mobile phone as remote detonating mechanism.
“The shutting off of communication services was made confidential so that those who may have planned to sow terror would not be pre-informed,” Celorico said.
While the move had inconvenienced thousands of people here, it became an effective measure against terror, he said.
Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, city police director, said the homemade bomb found in Plaza Pershing was made of ammonium nitrate with fuel oil.
Casimiro said police believed that terrorists were to launch another attack on Sunday using a bomb with a remote detonating system. “That was why we requested the telcos to switch off their lines and signals,” he said.
Col. Andrelino Colina, head of the antiterror Task Force Zamboanga, said the threat level was very high.
“We took the threats seriously,” he said, adding that these came from the Abu Sayyaf, a crime group with links to the international terror network al-Qaida.
“Zamboanga is not safe and you know that,” Colina said.
Saving the city
Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the shutting down of telecommunication services for a few hours on Sunday saved the city.
Salazar said she and the other officials would do the same thing in the future “as we want to protect your children.”
Colina was more precise in his statement, saying that many people are still alive because of the disruption. “We still have two hands and two legs and we are all alive,” he said.
In North Cotabato province, police dismissed reports that the explosions that hit several areas during the past weeks were the work of terrorists.
Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, provincial police director, said the attacks were not even linked to a single group.
“There were different motives, but these were not terror-related,” Peralta said.
On Oct. 8, two persons were killed and three others were wounded when a grenade exploded inside a Protestant church in Pikit, North Cotabato.
A few days later, an explosion rocked Libungan town, but no one was harmed.
“These attacks were triggered by either a personal grudge or extortion,” Peralta said. Julie Alipala and Liza Jocson with a report from Carlo Agamon, Inquirer Mindanao
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