Tacurong blast suspects identified, held

Authorities identified the suspects behind Tuesday’s blast as Edris Sabal and Abdul Sabidi, alleged members of the Jemaah Islamiyah.

Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, claimed Sabal was involved in the bomb attack outside the KCC Mall in neighboring Koronadal City on February 21, 2003. “He lost an arm when the bomb prematurely exploded then. He acted like he was a victim but deeper probe eventually showed that he was carrying the explosive. He was detained but eventually managed to post bail,” Kiunisala said.

Two bombs exploded at KCC Mall here that day, injuring three persons, including Sabal. A third explosive fashioned out of a 61 mm mortar shell, which was attached to a parked car in front of the shopping center, was detonated hours later.

“He (Sabal) is involved,” Kiunisala said, adding that even if Sabal had only one arm, he had companions who carried out the attack in Tacurong.

A day before the attack, the suspect was reported spotted somewhere in Sultan Kudarat province, where Tacurong belongs, Kiunisala said.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes said Sabal lost his right arm to the premature explosion at the KCC Mall.

But Sabal at his hospital bed following the explosion denied he was responsible for the twin explosions that sent shoppers scampering for safety.

“It was a frame-up. I have nothing to do with the bombing. I’m just a shopper. I appeal to the authorities to first conduct an extensive investigation before singling me out as the suspect,” he told reporters then.

Sabal, a Maguindanaoan in his 20s, admitted he had studied Arabic in an Islamic school in Cotabato City.

Kiunisala said Sabal is hiding in Liguasan Marsh, where he and his companions reportedly hatched the plan to attack Tacurong.

No profile was made on Sabidi.

Supt. Joel Limson, Tacurong police chief, said they have a suspect in custody but declined to give names pending outcome of the interrogation.

Limson reiterated that the Jemaah Islamiyah, which is listed by the United States government as a terrorist organization, is behind the latest blast in the city.  

The explosive was the same type that was planted at the police outpost on April 29, he said. Bomb experts had safely detonated the bomb.