Death toll in Cotabato blast now 8, including 9-year old boy

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Aug) –  The death toll in the car bomb explosion along Sinsuat Avenue here shortly before 5 p.m. Monday has risen to eight as five of the injured died in the hospital.

The powerful explosion set on fire four vehicles, five motorcyles and seven business establishments nearby.

Among those killed were boys aged nine and 14, and a security escort of  Cotabato City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi who said it was “obvious” that she was the target.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, city police chief said the bomb, placed in a car, exploded just as  Sayadi’s convoy from City Hall, passed.

Sayadi,  who served as Solicitor General of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under the Ampatuan administration, is the sister of Mayor Guiapal Guiani.

Balquin said four persons died on the spot while four expired in the hospital. As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, only 13 of the 30 who were rushed to the hospitals, remain confined.

Chief Insp. Abubakar Mangelen, chief intelligence officer of the Maguindanao Police Provincial Office, was among the injured.

Chief Supt. Charles Calima, regional police chief, identified those killed as Jeddin Menak, 9; Nasrudin Guialel, 14; Suyoph Jali; Ahari Samsudin; Sungakala Satol; Haris Unto, 35; Salahudin Sindato and SPO4 Mama Manabuay, one of Sayadi’s escorts.

All eight are believed to be Maguindanaon Muslims.

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC), which is documenting developments of the bombing, reported that a victim expired at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, increasing the death toll to nine. But MindaNews later verified the report not to be true.

Balquin said Sayadi may have been saved by a Strada vehicle that overtook her vehicle and was directly hit by the bomb.

The Cotabato City explosion came ten days after an improvised bomb exploded in Rosario Arcade, Limketkai Center in Cagayan de Oro, killing eight and injuring around 40.

In a statement, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman denounced the bomb attack as “ruthless and cowardly,” adding they are “deeply saddened that this atrocious act happened during this month of Ramadan.”

Muslims are about to celebrate Eid’l Fitr, the end of the month-long fasting, late this week,

Hataman urged authorities to conduct a “swift and thorough investigation and bring to the bar of justice the criminals behind this.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of the bomb blast. The leadership of the ARMM stands with the good people of Cotabato City,” he said.

Cotabato City is not part of the ARMM but has been its “provisional seat” since 1990. The ARMM compound is about a kilometer away from the blast.

In Davao City, the Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University issued a statement condemning the “vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians in Cotabato City”

“We join with all our fellow Cotabateneos, Mindanaons, and Filipino brothers and sisters in calling for the swift justice and bringing the perpetrators to the full extent application of the law,”  it said.

It called on authorities to “respect human rights and NOT do any form of  ‘witch hunting’ and observe the true essence of due process (for) all Muslim civilians. This act of terrorism must not justify any form of discrimination towards any Muslim Filipinos in our country.” (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)