Bomb threats in Central Mindanao remain high

by Lore Mae Andong, ABS-CBN Central Mindanao

Posted at Oct 12 2011 06:20 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2011 02:20 AM

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – The Directorate for Integrated Police Operation (DIPO) for Western Mindanao has not lowered its threat level in Central Mindanao, following a series of bomb explosions and recovery of improvised explosive devices (IED) in Cotabato City and in North Cotabato.

DIPO-Western Mindanao Chief Director General Felicisimo Khu, Jr. said about 10 to 11 IEDs were recovered this year, foiling attempts to mar the peace and security in Central Mindanao.

"As far as I am concerned, we have not lowered the seriousness of the possible bombing operations of these groups," Gen. Khu said to ABS-CBN Cotabato Tuesday.

The official named Bassit Usman as the one responsible for these IED recoveries, based on Usman's signature bombs.

Khu said IEDs made by Usman are similar to each other, citing the twin bombs recovered inside the Office of the Regional Governor Compound of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) last October 2, twin 81-millimeter mortar ammunitions that exploded in front of Fitmart in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat last June 1, twin ammunitions recovered in the town of Lambayong in Sultan Kudarat last June 22, twin bombs recovered in Esperanza SK last June 27 and the one recovered in General Santos City last August 13, wherein the bomb was placed inside a briefcase.

"As far as bomb signature is concerned, very clearly, the twin IED sa ORG compound, si Bassit Usman lang po ang may style na ganito," Khu said.

The official said the perpetrators and the one responsible for making the IEDs are not an easy fish to catch.

The areas where these IEDs were made and came from are allegedly Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-controlled areas, according to Gen. Khu.

Khu added that Bassit Usman is a wanted criminal who hides from authorities and doesn't come out of his lair.

Khu said these are the reasons why they can't easily apprehend these bomb makers.

"Ang problema kasi ay marami tayong hindrances, una ‘yung pwesto kung saan nanggagaling ang mga bombang ito ay MILF-controlled areas. If we ask our brothers in the MILF they always deny it na there's such a place sa area nila, I have pictures pero di ko pa pwedeng ipakita ngayon...and second, si Bassit Usman ay wanted, at wanted rin ng federal government, di siya lumalabas. And for the government to conduct operation against him, it’s very dangerous kasi controlled area niya rin," Khu said.

The official added that they are constrained by the current peace negotiations.

"We don't want to jeopardize the peace process kaya kung sinasabi ng publiko na bakit hindi na lang pasukin at giyerahin namin ‘yan, hindi ‘yun pwede kasi baka maging full-blown war," Khu said.

However, MILF Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar sees no truth to what Khu said. "Hindi ‘yun totoo," Jaafar said.

In the recent IED recovery in Cotabato City, the police have not yet identified a concrete motive.

However, Gen. Khu said they are still not discounting the possibility that it has something to do with the previous IED recoveries near the ARMM compound in the selection of OICs in the region.

Khu said these are raw information from their intelligence reports.

"Ang bombing situation sa Central Mindanao had already changed to a higher dimension kasi one or two or more motives just to accomplish the mission," Khu said.

Alarm-triggered bomb

In the continuous investigation the police are conducting on the recent IED recovery, the bomb disposal team of the Philippine National Police discovered that the cellphone used by the perpetrators had no SIM pack.

This is the first incident the authorities recovered bomb components where a cellphone usually used as triggering device doesn't have any SIM pack.

The authorities suspect that these bomb makers are trying to come up with a new system in detonating a bomb using a cellphone's alarm system.

"We are suspecting that, we don't know if this is a new technology, kasi the bomb itself is triggered by the alarm system. Like, for example, it was alarmed at 5 a.m., the alarm system will generate a sound or a vibration which will now trigger the switch mechanism completing the circuit. They are now trying to overcome the jamming device of the Americans, maybe they are thinking that the Philippine authority now has a jamming device," Khu said.

The official still continues to remind and direct ground commanders as well as the public to be vigilant at all times.

DIPO-Western Mindanao Chief Gen. Khu also gives rewards to bomb tipsters to encourage the public help the authorities fight terroristic acts in Central Mindanao.