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59 bombs seized from MILF camps - military

DAVAO CITY, Philippines  – Troops have seized at least 59 bombs in Mindanao in the past few weeks, the military said yesterday.

Col. Medardo Geslani, Army 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said the bombs were ready for distribution to the cities of General Santos, Tacurong, Koronadal, Kidapawan and Kabacan and other parts of Mindanao.

“Of the 59 bombs, we recovered 14 of them in an MILF camp in Talayan, while the 45 others were taken from the western part of the town of Guindulungan, in Maguindanao,” he said.

“These are their usual targets because of the proximity to the areas where they can easily seek refuge after carrying out their bombing missions.”

Geslani said newly trained terrorists have been sent out on test missions to carry out the bombings.

“You can do the math – how much it would cost to carry out a bombing mission, how much a cellular phone costs, and add it to the other expenses, depending on the distance where they are supposed to carry (out the bombing),” he said.

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Cell phones have been used as triggering devices for the bombs.

More terrorist bombings will occur in Mindanao as long as the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network continues to operate in the region, Geslani said.

62 bombings recorded

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said yesterday 62 bombings and attempted bomb attacks have been recorded in the country since January.

The retired Armed Forces chief said the latest bombing in Iligan City where 22 people were wounded, is the 62nd case.

“That will make an average of 10 bombing and bombing attempt incidents a month,” he said.

Speaking over radio, Biazon, Senate Committee on National Defense chairman, said the figures included the bomb attack at the Office of the Ombudsman and the explosive found at the Department of Agriculture, both in Quezon City. 

“We, the people, should all be vigilant to (prevent) these things from happening,” he said.

Troops nab gunrunner; seize arms

Troops arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf gunrunner during a raid in a barangay in Jolo, Sulu on Wednesday.

1Lt. Stefani Cacho, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, said Marines, Sulu police and Special Action Force troops cornered Hakim Jajirin in the vicinity of Barangay Upper San Raymundo.

Among the firearms seized from the suspect were one M60 light machinegun, one spare M60 barrel, one lower receiver of M60; three M16 rifles with one pack loaded with spare parts, 7 M16 rifle butts, five M16 rifle hand guards; 16 rifle buffer springs, four rifle bolts, five carry handles, 12 M16 rifle guides, 4 M16 rear sights, 2 M16 flash suppressors, 2 M16 gas cylinders; one M4 air gun with magazine; one M203 grenade launcher, a .45 caliber pistol and several barrels for M16 rifle.

Meanwhile, six suspected Abu Sayyaf members, including two wives of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, were arrested on Tuesday in a Marine checkpoint along the highway in Barangay Tagbak, Indanan, Sulu hours after the bombing that killed two people and wounded 40 others in downtown Jolo, according to Superintendent Amil Baanan, Sulu police provincial deputy chief.

Baanan said the six suspects – four women and two men – tried to pass the checkpoint at about 1 p.m Tuesday or barely five hours after the bomb exploded in a hardware store in Jolo.

“We cannot yet say if those arrested were part of those behind the bombing,” he said.

“The Marines will continue their tactical interrogation before they will turn over the suspects to us.”

Reports reaching the Westmincom said two of those arrested were Parad’s 1st and 3rd wives, Rowena Aksan alias Honey and Nursima Annudden alias Simang.

The four other suspects were identified as Rabia Polalon Asiri and Marwina Salasain, Madrimar Bagadi and Midsfar Aksan.

Canada advises vs travel to Mindanao

Canada advised its nationals against traveling to Mindanao.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade advised against all travel to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, comprising Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Shariff Kabunsuan, as well as the Zamboanga Peninsula, Zamboanga del Sur, Saragani, Lanao del Norte, Davao del Sur (excluding urban areas of Davao City), South Cotabato, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

“Canadians living in these areas should reassess their security situation,” read the advisory.

The advisory said clashes since August 2008 have killed dozens of people, including civilians, and there continues to be a threat of terrorist attacks, which could occur at anytime in this region.

It also cited several bombings in a number of locations, including but not limited to Cotabato, Kidapawan, Zamboanga City, General Santos City, Iligan City and Davao City, causing several deaths and numerous injuries.

“There have been explosions in various areas of Mindanao in the first week of July 2009, including Cotabato, Iligan and Jolo, in which a number of people have been killed or injured, attacks in other major centers in Mindanao,” read the advisory.

“There are increasing concerns over the recent escalation of attacks, and the potential for further attacks in other cities in Mindanao.

“The threat of terrorist activities exists, particularly in Mindanao. Bombs have exploded in shopping malls, on public transportation, at airports and port facilities, in places of worship, and in other public areas. Further explosions are possible anywhere in the country.”

The advisory said continuing reports suggest that there is an ongoing terrorist threat to Westerners and Western interests in the Philippines. Philippine authorities have warned that there may be bomb attacks in Manila and other key cities.

”Bombings and crime-related shootings have occurred in Mindanao, Manila and other parts of the country, and explosive devices continue to be discovered by security authorities. Canadians should be vigilant and comply with all security procedures,” read the advisory.

Rights group hits military

A child rights group hit the military yesterday for its failure to prevent terrorist bombings despite intelligence reports of impending attacks.

In a statement, Sophia Garduce, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns spokesperson, called for an in-depth investigation and prosecution of people behind the incidents.

“This act is condemnable as victims of these atrocities are mostly civilians, including children,” she said.

“The culprits behind this act of violence should be held accountable. Even the motivation behind the bombings is vague. No amount of reason will justify these evil deeds.

“What surprises us is that hundreds of troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines are currently deployed in Mindanao, while millions of pesos are spent in intelligence fund to get information on small groups like the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, and yet the military is still caught flat-footed in situations like these.”

Garduce said the bombings happened despite the government’s knowledge of the impending attack through intelligence reports.

“We are calling for a speedy and in-depth investigation of these incidents and prosecution of its perpetrators,” she said.

“Putting a stop to these incidents will allow the children of Mindanao to receive the gift of lasting peace that is based on justice, a gift they have never ever seen so far in their very young lives.”

Meanwhile, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a non-government organization providing psycho-social help for children-victims of state violence and a member organization of Salinlahi, raised alarm yesterday over the sweeping accusations of the military against internally displaced persons (IDP) who are mostly Moro civilians.

Esmeralda Macaspac, CRC executive director, said the military should be more careful in tagging suspects in these incidents and implement confidence-building measures to forward the peace agenda in Mindanao.

“With the recent bombings in Mindanao, and with the pronouncement of the military that the IDPs are their reserved enemy, we fear that this will set the stage for the illegal arrest of Muslim evacuees, as what the military has been doing for a long time,” she said.

Macaspac said the recent pull-out of the United Nations World Food Program in Mindanao will gravely affect the miserable condition of the IDPs.

“They have already been denied their basic rights to live decently, and now they will again be denied their basic survival rights,” she said. 

“We are calling on the national government to address the needs of the evacuees, especially since a majority of them are children and minors.

US hopes for peace

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said yesterday her government is hoping that those responsible for the bombings in Mindanao be brought to justice.

Speaking at the opening of a photo exhibit of American history at the SM Atrium in Baguio City, Kenney stressed that the US government will continue its commitment in Mindanao.

Kenney dispelled insinuations that the visit of US Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta is connected to the recent bombings in Mindanao.

“It has long been scheduled,” she said.

Kenney said Panetta is coming to Manila as “part of getting to know officials of the defense department, ” and not connected to the Mindanao bombings. 

“He will just pay courtesy to officials in Manila,” she said.

Kenney again dispelled talk of American intervention into Philippine internal affairs.

“It is an internal affair,” she said. “It is for the Filipino people to decide (their) future.” — With Roel Pareño, Pia Lee-Brago, Helen Flores, Artemio Dumlao, Dennis Carcamo

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