Cops warn vs ‘bigger’ bomb blasts
- Matthew Estabillo () - October 25, 2002 - 12:00am
A "bigger bomb explosion" to be engineered by a Muslim secessionist group could hit Metro Manila in the next few days, the Quezon City police warned yesterday.

Sources in the Central Police District (CPD) said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was just waiting to unleash the big one after bombing a passenger bus on Oct. 18 and killing two officials of the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) over the past two months.

The police sources made this revelation as Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza urged the public to be vigilant against terrorist attacks and ordered all agencies of his department to be on heightened alert.

"If people are helping in looking out for terrorists who may be planting a bomb or leaving explosives on a crowded bus, the government would be more effective in solving our nation’s current biggest headache," Mendoza said.

The CPD source echoed Mendoza’s statement and stressed that "this is not to scare people."

"We just want them to be cautious so we can prevent any more casualties. Our informants tell us that the rebels are planning a tremendous blast in the metropolis within the next few days," the source told The STAR.

"We can only hope that the rebels do not include innocent people in their violent plans. But at this point, we still have no idea where in the metropolis they will strike. So we advise people to be on the alert as well," the source added.

The source said the bombing of the Golden Hi-way Transit bus at around 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 18 in Balintawak, Quezon City was only a "dry run" for a "bigger, more massive attack" in Metro Manila.

But he revealed that MILF members have penetrated the OMA and are also responsible for the killing of OMA deputy executive director Kharis Mikunog on Sept. 19 and project manager Nasser Baharan on Oct. 22, or four days after the bus bombing, the source said.

Mikunog was shot dead inside his car at the basement parking area of the OMA building along E. Rodriguez Boulevard in Quezon City while Baharan was killed inside his vehicle at the corner of Araneta Avenue and Kitanlad streets in Barangay Tatalon.

Police have arrested Andiong Adas, 27, of Balingayong in Davao City, who is now detained at the CPD headquarters awaiting murder charges to be filed against him.

Police said the motive for killing had something to do with OMA’s budget, which the MILF supposedly wants to tap to buy more weapons.

One of OMA’s tasks is to assist Filipino Muslims in their hadj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and there have been repeated accusations of irregularities in the disposition of the hadj funds.

However, the source did not clarify if the terror attacks were being conducted by the MILF as an organization or only by renegade members.

One MILF commander, identified as Muklis Yunos, has been tagged as the brains behind the Dec. 30, 2000 bombings in Metro Manila, one of which was also inside a passenger bus. It was not clear, however, if Yunos is a regular MILF member or a renegade. In Zamboanga City, government agents have intensified their manhunt for two men who are believed to be among those who planned and conducted the spate of bombings that has so far killed 12 people and wounded 201 others in this month alone.

Zamboanga police identified the two men as Alex Alvarez, the leader of the bombers, and a certain Aljhon who were almost caught by police Tuesday night..

Police said Alvarez and Aljhon arrived at their safehouse in Apolinario Loop at Barangay Guiwan but the presence of a police squad car alarmed them.

"Alvarez and Aljhon arrived on board a tricycle and alighted a few meters from the boarding house. After seeing the presence of the police car, they immediately left toward an unknown direction," said a witness who saw the suspects.

Police have already arrested five suspects for the bombing. Abduljamin Hassanaul Habi, Madznul Laja, Pas Ismael, Raja Sumayaga and Buyung Bungkag are now detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Meanwhile, the Integrated Metro Bus Operators Association (IMBOA) noted a decline in the number of passengers riding public buses.

"We have observed a decline in our passengers. Many people now prefer to stay home especially at night,’ said IMBOA president Claire dela Fuente.

IMBOA members and other public transport operators have undergone a DOTC crash course on identifying bombs.

DOTC spokesman Thompson Lantion also called on the public to utilize the DOTC Action Line 7890 to report bomb threats on transportation and communication facilities.

Mendoza has also ordered the Land Transportation Office, Philippine Coast Guard, Civil Aviation Administration and the National Telecommunication Commission to secure all transportation terminals, seaports and airports as well as telecommunication facilities against possible terror attacks. — With Sheila Crisostomo

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