3 cells compose shadowy group blamed for CDO blast

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY(MindaNews/15 August)—The shadowy Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao has three terrorist cells, including the alleged bomber at Kyla’s Bistro in LimketKai Rosario Arcade here, “on the loose” in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur provinces, a top defense official said.

The military also unmasked the alleged leader of the group as Reneer Lou Dongon, alias Rolly Unting, who has been arrested months earlier but later released.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, disclosed the development following a security briefing Wednesday afternoon attended by the country’s top defense and security officials and local government executives.

Those in attendance were Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa, who chairs the Anti-terror Council, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Alan Purisima.

Mayor Oscar Moreno and Lanao del Norte Gov. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo were also present in the meeting.

Reporters were barred from covering the security briefing conducted by Visaya, but he later spoke with the mediamen.

Visaya said that each of Khilafah Islamiyah’s three terror cells has seven to 10 members with allegedly close links to the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“They are all young. Most of them are in their 20s or teenagers. They live in communities close to the two groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),” Visaya said.

The government had already signed a final peace deal with the MNLF in 1996 while the peace process with the MILF has yet to be fully completed.

Earlier, the AFP and the PNP blamed the Khilafah Islamiyah for the explosion at the Limketkai Arcade that killed eight persons and wounded 46 others last July 26.

Visaya told reporters that the threat from the shadowy group “is still evident for Cagayan de Oro and nearby provinces.”

Visaya said the group even sent a video copy of the Limketkai bombing to their al Qaeda contacts right after the incident happened last July 26.

“They wanted to raise money from their al Qaeda contacts in Afghanistan, “ Visaya claimed. “They will use that money to finance more bombings that’s why they sent the video to show they are capable.”

However, the general would not say how they came about with the information, noting he would not like to compromise their intelligence operations against the group.

Freed on technicality

Visaya revealed that the alleged leader of Khilafah Islamiyah, Dongon, was arrested along with an associate by police intelligence operatives in Barangay Fort in Marawi City last May 11.

Chief Supt. Catalino Rodriguez, PNP-Region 10 director, said that Dongon was allegedly responsible for the bombing of Maxandrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro last year.

The PNP-10 website said that Dongon and his associate, Emran Napeh, who is also known as Napeh or Miding, was ordered released by a judicial court in Marawi City on a technicality.

A source from the police who requested anonymity said that Dongon is a close associate of Usman Hapids, who was charged along with five others with multiple murder and frustrated murder for the Limketkai bombing.

The same source said that Dongon and Hapids, who reportedly hails from Maguindanao, were trained in bomb making by fugitive Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan, who is accused of providing training for terror organizations across Southeast Asia.

However, Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainer Cruz, head of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, said that Marwan was not involved in the July 26 bombing in Limketkai Rosario Arcade.

“This new group acted alone. Marwan was not involved here,” Cruz told reporters.

When Dongon and Napeh were arrested last May 11, police said it found sizable bomb making materials that include 29 pieces of blasting caps, five screw drivers, seven pieces of nine-volt batteries, five pieces of Eveready batteries, a Samsung notebook, five pieces of handheld VHF radios, a compact disc player, six assorted mobile phone SIM packs, a Sony digital camera, a Smart broadband, seven improvised explosive device (IED) components, four soldering guns, 17 pieces of empty 7.62 shells, one gallon ammonium nitrate mixture, two capacitors, and a caliber .45 pistol with seven bullets.

PNP-Region 10 Director Rodriguez said the seized IED components and blasting caps were similar to the bomb components that exploded at the Maxandrea Hotel.

Scene-of-the-Crime operatives also found at Kyla’s Bistro pieces of a radio transceiver believed to be remains of a small VHF radio that serves as the triggering device of the 81-mm mortar used in the bombing. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)