GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) – Police authorities have raised the alert level in the municipality of President Quirino in Sultan Kudarat province following the recovery late on Monday of four improvised bombs in the town’s outskirts.
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Senior Supt. Rex dela Rosa, Sultan Kudarat police director, said Wednesday they found the explosives buried in an open field at an upland portion of Barangay Katico, which is about eight kilometers away from the town proper of President Quirino.
He said the bombs were fashioned from four 60mm mortar cartridges and were similar in makeup to the explosives that they either recovered or had exploded in the previous months in several parts of the province.
“(But) these were all defective and will not explode,” the police official said.
Dela Rosa said the recovery of the explosives came after concerned residents of Barangay Katico reported to the President Quirino police station the suspicious movements on Monday of an unidentified person at a portion of their village.
He said a team from the town’s police station that responded to the area initially found freshly-covered shallow diggings in two sites.
The diggings yielded four sets of explosives that were each made up of a 60mm mortar cartridge and several other components, he said.
Dela Rosa said a team from the provincial police’s explosives and ordnance disposal or EOD unit secured the explosives for proper evaluation and disposal.
The official said they are still investigating the possible motive, target and the owner or source of the recovered explosives.
“We’re looking at all possible angles right now. But the overall makeup and component of the bombs point to the same group that was behind the previous attacks in some parts of the province,” he said.
Dela Rosa was referring to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), which was tagged by authorities as behind the string of bomb attacks last year in Tacurong City and in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat.
The BIFM, which is based in Maguindanao province, was founded by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Ameril Umbra Kato after bolting from the rebel group in 2010.
“It could be intended to scare off the farmers there since it’s harvest time already or to preempt possible operations of military forces in the area,” he said.
Dela Rosa initially brushed off the possibility that the recovered bombs could be linked to the ongoing local campaigning for the upcoming May 13 midterm national and local elections.
Authorities have placed the town under close watch due to the possible escalation of violent incidents in the run-up to the polls.
Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr., Region 12 police director, earlier said the security situation in President Quirino town has remained volatile due to the continuing threats on the life of reelectionist Mayor Emilio Salamanca.
Salamanca, who is running under the United Nationalist Alliance, figured in two daring attacks at his residence in Tacurong City in November and December last year that authorities believed were linked to his reelection bid.
The incumbent mayor is being challenged by Liberal Party (LP) bet Azel Mangudadatu, who lost in their first faceoff in the 2010 elections.
Azel is the wife of outgoing mayor and now LP vice mayoral candidate Freddie Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town in Maguindanao. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)