Police files murder charges vs suspected bombers

Chief Supt. German Doria, Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao) police director,
said they have strong evidences that the bombings in Tacurong City in Sultan
Kudarat, Makilala in Cotabato and Cotabato City last Tuesday and Wednesday
were carried out allegedly by JI-trained members of the Abu Sayyaf led by Usman.
“It was Dulmatin who ordered Usman to launch these attacks,” Doria said over
Radio Mindanao Network in Koronadal City late Friday afternoon.

He said they would include in the charge sheet at least a dozen still
unidentified JI and Abu Sayyaf members who allegedly participated in the bomb
attacks, which killed six people and injured 33 others.

Four persons were injured when a bomb exploded inside the Tacurong City public
market on Tuesday noon. Some eight hours later, another blast rocked Makilala
town which was celebrating its 52nd founding anniversary. Six people were
killed and 29 persons were injured in the blast.

On Wednesday, another bomb exploded in a street in Cotabato City but no
casualties were reported.

Police and military officials said the explosives, fashioned from 81-mm mortar
shells and improvised with battery power and cellular phone-controlled timing
devices, were reportedly “JI signature bombs.”

Doria cleared the MILF of any hand in the attacks. He clarified that they
never tagged the MILF as suspects in the recent attacks.

“The suspects may have some connections with several MILF members but not with
the organization itself so we are not filing the case against the MILF,“ Doria
said.
   
He specifically cited the case of Usman, a principal suspect in the April 2002
bombing of the FitMart department store, whom he described as an alleged
former sub-commander of the MILF’s 105th Brigade but who later joined the Abu
Sayyaf.
   
Usman was captured by government operatives in July 2002 in Sultan Kudarat
province in connection with the FitMart bombing that killed 15 people and
injured more than 60 others.

But three months later, Usman escaped from the custody of the Sarangani police
mobile group based in Alabel, Sarangani and was reported to have since
reunited with his Abu Sayyaf comrades.    

Doria said they would  furnish the MILF a report about their investigation ad
the identity of the alleged suspects so the rebel group could help track them
down or be alerted in case they would seek refuge in identified strongholds of
the Moro rebels.

“We submit the report to the government peace panel and we will leave it to
them to relay and resolve these things with the MILF,” he added.

The MILF immediately welcomed Doria’s statements and said they are “more than
willing” to provide any help to the government.

“This is a good development. It will help clear the atmosphere as we go on
with the peace process,” MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told
MindaNews in a telephone interview.

He said they are ready to help run after the suspected bombers through the Ad
Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), a body agreed upon by the government and MILF
peace panels, to go after criminals, kidnappers, and other lawless elements in
so-called “MILF areas.”

Iqbal reiterated that the MILF, as a revolutionary organization, do not resort
to sowing terror and harming innocent civilians in pushing for their cause.

In the case of Usman, Iqbal said he cannot confirm whether the suspected
bomber had a stint with the MILF’s 105th Brigade.
   
But he admitted that Usman may have established some connections with certain
MILF members who might have crossed their paths during past operations in the
area.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol blamed the MILF on Wednesday for the
bombings in Tacurong, Makilala and Cotabato City.  
         
On Thursday, National Police Director General Oscar Calderon declared that the
Philippine National Police has no direct evidence that would link the MILF to
the three bomb attacks.

Calderon said the bomb attacks appear to be an offshoot of the recent arrest
of Dulmatin’s wife Istiada Oemar Sovie alias Amenah Tohe and her two sons by
government agents in Patikul, Sulu last week.

She earlier revealed her husband and another JI bomb expert, Umar Patek, are
hiding in Jolo and are being protected by the Abu Sayyaf.

Dulmatin and fellow Indonesian, Patek have been linked to the October 2002
bombings at a night club in Bali, Indonesia that killed more than 200 people,
mostly Australian tourists.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)

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