Bombs render Iligan bridge unsafe for passage

The first bomb exploded at 1:30 a.m. and the second five minutes after.

Major Efren Morados, executive officer of 104th Infantry Brigade, said the bombs were attached to the steel beams which held the bridge’s strength.

He said investigations were continuing but that there was no way to determine the type of bombs used, as all fragments fell into the river.

Police city director Oscar Aguda said the explosions had an impact similar to that of a 105mm howitzer blast.

Col. Benito de Leon, commanding officer of 104th IB, said a military bomb squad theorized that the bomber tied two to four 81mm mortars to each side of the bridge’s steel beam  to create heavy damage.

“You know it’s like lighting a box of matches compared to the lighting of one stick,’ he explained, adding the bomber chose a good part of the bridge on which to plant the explosives.

Mayor Lawrence Cruz said on radio station dxLS that the bridge will either be repaired or reconstructed.

Providencio Abragan, chair of the city peace and order council, said on radio that a witness claimed to have seen a black vehicle parked on the bridge past 1 a.m., before the explosions.

Commuters have to take a detour along a road across the remote barangays of Buruun, Taytay and Ditucalan. But trucks and buses cannot use this route.

Others opted to take the footbridge in Agus 7 and walk a few kilometers before taking a jeep to the city.

The Department of Public Works and Highways was still evaluating the extent of damage on the bridge, but Aguda said “it needs a total repair.”

De Leon believes  the bombing was done to prevent the formal surrender of 21 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which took place at the brigade headquarters at 10 a.m. today.

Some MILF leaders reportedly wanted to prevent the surrender of a group of rebels led by Mabaning Andamun “Benjie” Lucsadatu of the 101st Brigade which held the former Camp Bilal Base Command that covered the towns of Munai, PoonaPiagapo, Piagapo and Madalum.

Benjie is also a close relative of Yahya Lucsadatu, a “division commander” of the MILF in Lanao del Norte.

The surrenderees yielded assorted firearms including a KG-9 machine gun and a rocket- propelled grenade launcher.

De Leon said many rebels were planning to surrender but feared reprisal from their comrades.

“This surrender of 29 rebels is a welcome development. It’s an honorable thing for them to do,” he said.

The surrenderees were presented and accepted by Major General Romeo Lustestica, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Lanao del Norte governor Khalid Dimaporo. The latter administered an oath of allegiance for the former rebels.

The surrenderees symbolically burned their rebel uniforms and sang Ang Bayan Ko.

Lustestica and religious and civil society leaders condemned the bombing of Agus Bridge.

Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz, vicar general of Iligan Diocese, called the bombing a handiwork of evil.

“The people who did it are people who just loved to see people inconvenienced. I think it was absolutely a senseless act. The police and army should not let their guard down. All should be vigilant and we condemn this in the strongest terms,” Vera Cruz said.

Abel Moya, program director of Pakigdait Inc, said they are calling for sobriety as an interfaith organization.

Fr. Teresito Suganub of Marawi City prelature said that the bombing is a handiwork of unknown persons and that if everybody is caught off-guard, anybody can do bad deeds.

Two hostels in Iligan were bombed on August 18, 2008. Four months after, two shopping centers, Unicity and Trendline, were also bombed. No suspects have been arrested. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)