Col. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the “Jemaah Islamiah-trained ASG orchestrated the bombings to sow terror in this part of the region”. The brigade is based in Camp Lucero in Carmen, North Cotabato,
“This is part of the terrorists’ activities in Mindanao. Before the bombings, we received intelligence reports that the ASG will bomb cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Zamboanga, and General Santos, which really happened,” Pabustan said.
Bomb probers said the explosions were caused by what is commonly termed in the military as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Pabustan said fragments of the IEDs traced in the explosion site, including those they recovered in Pikit and Kabacan towns in North Cotabato early this year “were trademarks of the local terror group,” he added.
The two IEDs in the twin blasts were rigged to 81-mm mortars and were set off by a mobile phone.
“This IED can be manufactured locally. This is not imported. Some armed groups operating in this region use this in their warfare,” said Pabustan, adding that the 81-mm and 60-mm mortars can be found in the armory of the local armed groups in the province, including the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He did not discount the possibility however, that the bombings were part of the extortion activities of local crime groups. “The fact that the bombs were placed in big business establishments here – one at the hotel and the other at the local multi-cab supply center – extortion can be one of the motives,” he said.
But Dan Sembrano, who owns Sheer Marketing, a local supplier of multi-cab vehicles which was hit by the explosion, refused to buy the idea. “In the past 32 years of my business here, I have not received any death threat or extortion letter. I have been peacefully doing my business here,” he said.
“That was not meant for me. I am more inclined to believe that the bombs were part of the terror plan,” he explained.
Sembrano said he lost some P200T to the explosion. The bomb destroyed four of his multi-cabs displayed in his store.
Pabustan said he has ordered the deployment of some more Army units in selected areas in the province to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Chief Insp. Leo Ajero, officer-in-charge of the city police here, has also set up “choke points” in different exit and entry points of the city to secure the area from terror attacks. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)