GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 Nov) – Police authorities have tagged an alleged terrorist cell operating in various parts of Mindanao as behind the foiled bombing attempt on a gasoline station here last Sunday night.
Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr., Region 12 police director, said Thursday their initial investigation showed that four alleged operatives of a special operations group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were behind the planting of a powerful explosive at a Petron service station along P. Acharon Boulevard here around 7:50 p.m. on Sunday.
The improvised bomb, which was fashioned from two 60mm mortar shells, was found by the gas station’s workers and later defused by personnel from the city police’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit.
Calima said they have been closely monitoring the movements of the alleged BIFF unit that reportedly appears to have been involved in previous attacks in other areas here in Mindanao.
“This (BIFF) is the group that we suspect was possibly behind the incident and we have been getting good information about them and their activities,” the police official said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
Citing a recorded footage from a closed-circuit television or security camera installed at the Petron gasoline station, Calima said the person who placed the white plastic bag that contained the explosive was initially identified as a certain Usop Umal alias Abu Samaya.
His other companion, who was seen approaching the gasoline station’s cashier booth, was identified as a certain alias Mocca Mohammad.
The suspects’ two other alleged companions, who were not seen in the footage, were only named as Hamdani and Salic.
In a security briefing with members of the city’s business chamber, Calima said the movements of the group were initially tracked down last Sept. 28 when they, along with eight other BIFF recruits, joined a training on bombing operations.
The training, which was supposedly facilitated by the Mindanao Khilafa Islamiyah group, was held somewhere in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, he said.
But he said the training was disrupted and abruptly ended due to a military operation against the BIFF in the area.
On Oct. 5, Hamdani, Mocca Mohammad, Arsad Salic Jihad and three other BIFF members reportedly moved from Marawi City to this city for a bombing mission on a local hotel.
The group reportedly failed to accomplish their mission due to the tight security in the area and was forced to return to Maguindanao for a week-long re-training on Oct. 21.
On Oct. 31, the group completed their training and left Barangay Ganta in Datu Piang for this city to resume their mission.
After allegedly failing anew to penetrate their target, the group was forced to just leave their explosive at the Petron gasoline station last Sunday night.
Calima said that based on intelligence information that they gathered, the group has targeted to launch attacks on 12 local establishments, which include malls, churches, hotels, government buildings and other vital installations.
The official said they will continue with their target-hardening measures to preempt the planned attacks by the suspects.
He urged residents to remain vigilant and always cooperate with local police units on matters concerning the area’s security.