By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
Previous cases of suicide bombings that were first recorded in the Philippines were perpetrated by foreign terrorists. But the twin blasts in a Sulu military camp that killed eight people and injured 22 others last June 28 could be the first attributed to home-grown terrorists.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said Monday the almost simultaneous suicide bombings at the tactical command post of the First Army Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Sitio Tanjung, Barangay Kajatian in Indanan, Sulu were pulled off by Filipinos.
Such incidences of suicide bombings in the country is rising, said Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana in another press briefing.
“This is the third one so it’s becoming an occurrence and we are very much concerned about this,” Lorenzana said in an ambush interview at Camp Aguinaldo. He referred to two recent incidents in Mindanao: a car bomb attack in Lamitan, Basilan in July 2018, and the bombing of a Catholic church in Jolo last January
The casualties in Friday’s suicide blasts included three soldiers, the two attackers and two civilians. It happened although the whole of Mindanao is under martial law because of the terrorist threat.
The first explosion took place at the gate of the camp, followed soon after by the second blast at the camp’s billeting area where 12 soldiers were injured.
Albayalde said police ordinance experts are working with the military in order to identify the type of bomb that was used during the successive bombings which he also believed were suicide bombings as it had been claimed by the Islamic State (IS).
He said the PNP is verifying and confirming together with the Armed Forces the identities of the two suspects who were killed after they set off bombs at the tactical command post of the First Army Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Sitio Tanjung, Barangay Kajatian.
What both the PNP and AFP have established with certainty so far is that the bombers were not foreigners, Albayalde told a press briefing.
“Adjustments need to be made in the police-military campaign against terrorist following this discovery that the bombers could be Filipinos,” Albayalde said.
The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the bombing but Albayalde took this in stride, saying IS has the habit of claiming responsibility for such atrocities. The group is believed to have ties with local terrorists who attacked and occupied Marawi City in 2017.
The PNP Chief said their Explosives and Ordnance Office is still gathering evidence to determine the kind of bomb used. He added that they are reminding all officers on the ground to intensify security and target tougher measures in the area following the twin blasts.
For this purpose, Lorenzana said security in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the country would be beefed up against possible spill-over.
“Well, all we have to do is be very watchful and be very vigilant here. Hopefully it will not come to Manila or any other urban centers in the Philippines,” he told reporters.
Lorenzana said security and intelligence information gathering in Metro Manila would be intensified to prevent similar suicide bombing attacks from happening in the metropolis especially with the approaching state-of-the-nation address of President Duterte on July 22.
On the suicide blasts in Sulu, Lorenzana said: “This guy knocked on the gate, so the guard went near to ask what the person needs. When the guard was near the gate, the person exploded.”
Malacañang for its part called on government troops in Sulu to strengthen their security measures in the wake of the explosions. “The fact alone that suicide bombers were able to enter the area means they need to implement more security protocols. I’m sure (the military) learned a lot from the incident,” Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a radio interview.