5 injured in Zambo grenade blast

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/02 February) – Five members of a senior citizens’ group were injured in a grenade explosion Sunday morning in front of an old church that is now used as venue for meetings.

Chief Insp. Felixberto Martinez, Police Station 6 commander, said the grenade exploded at around 9:30 a.m. at the entrance of the old San Isidro church in Barangay Talon-Talon while several senior citizens were gathered inside.

Pilar Santos, president of the senior citizens’ group, said they were having a meeting when they heard a loud explosion and saw some members of her group wounded.

No masses are held at the old church. Masses are held in the new San Isidro Church built a few years ago.

The old church now serves as a place for prayer and other non-religious activity of the parishioners, including the senior citizens’ group which meets there every first Sunday of the month to discuss matters such as livelihood undertakings, Santos said.

Santos, a retired education supervisor, said there were at least 30 of them when the blast occurred.

According to Martinez, the grenade was tossed by one of two unidentified men riding tandem in a motorcycle that passed in front of the old San Isidro Church.

The grenade did not roll inside the Church since it hit the iron grills of the front door, he said.

Members of the Explosive Ordnance Demolition recovered the grenade’s safety lever in front of the old church.

The Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) condemned the grenade-throwing “in the same way it condemns the burning of mosques and other civilian structures in Barangays Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, and Sta. Catalina during the mysterious fires in September of last year.”

“Attacks on mosques (masjid) and churches or any other structure of religious significance of whichever religious denomination is not only a violation of domestic and international humanitarian law, it also prevents us from building a mutually tolerant pluralistic society and further fans the flames of the conflict,” MinHRAC said in a statement.

It also added that civilians from several municipalities in Maguindanao are “anxious to know what happened to their homes and mosques after days of intense artillery shelling in the course of the military operations versus the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces (BIFF).

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Sunday called off military operations against the BIFF.

In a statement on January 30, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the BIFF over the last nine months has “repeatedly harassed our soldiers and terrorized local communities.”

She said the military operations were “geared at degrading the BIFF’s capability to continue to cause harm to the government forces, civilians and the peace process.” She added that before the  conduct of the operations, “the ceasefire mechanisms of the GPH and the MILF ensured the safety of civilians in surrounding areas” and that relief provisions were on standby to meet the basic needs of those who have been temporarily displaced.

Ferrer called on the members and leaders of the BIFF to lay down their arms and “be part of the process. We ask them to listen to the plea of their own brothers and sisters to give peace a chance.”

She said local government officials are “ready to receive those who would like to silence their guns and participate in the different programs we will be undertaking as part of the implementation of the peace agreements.”

On Saturday, a reporter and a cameraman of TV5 were among 12 persons wounded in a roadside explosion in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao Saturday morning, military officials said.

Maj. Romeo Gapuz, 6th Infantry Division commander, blamed the BIFF for the explosion at around 7:30 a.m. in Barangay Lower Salbo, calling it “an act of desperation.” (MindaNews)