Digital forensics expert arriving to retrieve data from car bomb suspect’s mobile phones

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 August) —  The task force investigating the car bomb explosion in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat last Monday is expecting a breakthrough from possible evidences stored in three mobile phones recovered from an arrested suspected bomber.

Senior Supt. Pedro Austria Jr., Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 12 director and  head of Task Force Elected Government Officials or TF EGO,  told reporters they will conduct a digital forensic investigation on Monday on the three cellphones allegedly owned by suspect Datu Karim Masdal, who was nabbed by police operatives minutes after the blast that killed two persons and injured six others. Authorities kept the information on his arrest under wraps pending investigation and the coming out of witnesses, reports said.

The powerful explosion, which killed Maguindanao board member Datu Russman Sinsuat Sr. and an 18-year old peddler Raffay Parrenias, happened as the convoy of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu was passing by a portion of the Alunan Highway in Tacurong City.

Six others were injured, including Sinsuat’s son, Russman, Jr. who lost his right leg.

“The cellphones might yield possible leads and evidences on the identities of the other suspects through the conversations and messages that we may extract from them,” said Austria.

The special task force was earlier tapped by the Philippine National Police central office to spearhead the investigation on the car bomb explosion, which reportedly targeted Mangudadatu.

Austria said CIDG-12 has the capability to extract even deleted “digital evidences” from the recovered cellphones.

He said the agency’s digital forensic expert will arrive from Manila on Monday to conduct the investigation.

“It would not take more than half a day to extract the evidences from the cellphones,” Austria said.

Police officials said Masdal, 33, was supposedly seen by witnesses leaving the white Kia Avella sedan before it exploded at around 3:15 p.m. Monday.

Masdal, a resident of Guindulungan in Maguindanao, was arrested near the blast site in Tacurong City, said Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele, Region 12 police director.

Charges of double murder and multiple frustrated murder had been filed against Masdal, who repeatedly denied involvement in the incident.

Austria said they are presently tracking down another suspect identified as a certain Jay R. Reyes, who reportedly acquired the vehicle from a taxi company based in Davao City on August 5.

Initial reports said the vehicle, which carried the license plate MDJ 274, was registered to a certain Maureen Macasindil, who operates the taxi service. Macasindil said they sold the vehicle to Reyes on August 5. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)