3 injured in Tacurong blast

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Dec) – Three people were injured in a bomb explosion late Wednesday evening at a section of the commercial district in Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province, an official said.

Supt. Junny Buenacosa, Tacurong City police chief, said the improvised bomb exploded around 10:30 p.m. by the roadside in front of a Western Union outlet and the Fit Mart department store at the city’s downtown area.

He said the scene of explosion was just a few meters away from the city’s main rotunda and a waiting area for passengers of public utility vehicles.

Sr. Supt. Rolen Balquin, provincial police director of Sultan Kudarat, quoted witnesses as saying that minutes before the blast a white van stopped near the site and later sped off towards the highway in Isulan.

“The explosive was planted by the roadside and there were some people situated near the area when it went off,” Buenacosa said in a radio interview.

Wounded were Jessa Dizon Marcelino, 23, of Purok-11, Abadilla Subdivision; Christian Jay Vino Gabaon, 26, of Block-3, Canos Subdivision , Purok-11; and James Biernes Salinda, 26, of EJC Montilla Street. All are from the Poblacion of Tacurong.

Citing a technical report filed by the city’s explosives and ordnance disposal (EOD) team, Buenacosa said the explosive was fashioned from a 60mm mortar that was attached to a battery pack and a mobile phone.

He said the EOD team recovered fragmented pieces of 9-volt batteries, an unspecified mobile phone and a 60mm mortar.

Buenacosa admitted that they had received numerous reports on threats of bomb attacks in the city, specifically during the area’s celebration of the Inugyunay Festival.

He said they have tightened the area’s security and was able to avert any attack during the Christmas festivity, which ran from December 7 to 23, and in the Christmas Eve celebrations.

“We’re still on full alert and we have reinforced our security measures in the entire city,” he said.

Last Nov. 16, an improvised bomb also exploded near a ticketing office along the national highway in the area but no casualties were reported.

Another explosive was recovered by the local police at a portion of the city public terminal’s exit.

Police operatives then arrested a suspect identified as Abdul Usman, who allegedly admitted his involvement with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) under a certain Commander Gani.

The BIFM, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was organized by MILF rouge leader Ameril Umra Kato.

Buenacosa said the EOD report noted that the type of explosive used in the Wednesday night attack was of “the same signature” of the recovered bomb at the city terminal’s exit.

“We don’t discount the possibility that the same lawless groups might be behind the series of blasts here, knowing that the same type of bombs were used to sow terror in our area,” Balquin said.

But none of the armed groups operating in the area has so far owned the bombings. (Allen V. Estabillo with reports from Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)