AFP hunting down Abu leader in Makati bus bombing
- Roel Pareño () - February 1, 2011 - 12:00am

ZAMBOANGA City , Philippines  – Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman for Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said that there is an ongoing military operation against fugitive Abu Sayyaf leader Nurhassan Jamiri who allegedly resembles one of the suspects in the bombing of the Newman Goldliner passenger bus in Makati City last Jan. 25.

Five passengers were killed and 13 others were wounded when an improvised explosive device that was triggered by a cell phone exploded inside the bus along EDSA near the corner of Buendia Ave. in Makati.

A source told The STAR that a witness had identified Jamiri as one of five Rajah Solaiman and Abu Sayyaf members who arrived in Metro Manila two weeks ago. The witness said the police sketch of one of the suspects looks like Jamiri.

Police investigators, however, denied that Jamiri’s name was mentioned in the investigation of the Makati bus bombing.

Cabangbang said there are ongoing military operations in Basilan to arrest Jamiri and his group.

“There has been persistent sightings (of Jamiri) being reported by civilians and intelligence on the ground in Basilan,” Cabangbang said.

He said the last information they received was that Jamiri had been wounded in the series of operations in mid-January.

Army Scout Rangers have reportedly overrun a camp abandoned by Jamiri’s group and recovered an improvised explosive device (IED), bomb components and several rounds of 60 mm mortars used to assemble the bomb.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo yesterday said police investigators are still validating reports linking a suspected bomber arrested in Jolo to the bombing of the passenger bus in Makati last week.

Robredo said initial information indicated that the arrested suspect was really behind the Newman Goldliner bus bombing.

“We are trying to figure out if it is. They are claiming it is,” said Robredo in an ambush interview after the 20th anniversary celebration of the Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Robredo said there was some information about the group but authorities would verify the information before any announcement is made. “We’d rather not close all the possibilities until we are very definite.”

He said PNP chief Director General Raul Bacalzo was designated as the official spokesman on the case to prevent speculations.

Bacalzo, for his part, said investigators are still verifying the reports.

“We really have to check, particularly the type of bomb was rather new, this is the first time that an 81-mm mortar was used in Metro Manila.

“We don’t want to surmise or speculate yet unless we are holding on to a credible piece of evidence,” Bacalzo explained.

Bacalzo also confirmed that the US embassy had offered their assistance in the probe of the bus bombing.

He maintained there was no specific threat in Metro Manila but police have intensified intelligence operations to ensure the safety of the public.

“What we have is general not area specific, not person specific, remember it also happened in one of the most security conscious places in the world – Russia. It’s really difficult to read a terrorist’s mind, a criminal’s mind,” Bacalzo admitted.

He noted that extortion has been eliminated as motive in the bus bombing.

Bacalzo said they are also monitoring threat groups in Mindanao.

“We have the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Al Khobar, the Pentagon, the MILF-SOG, and the MNLF factions and remember, there are factions within the organizations,” he said.

Palace warns pranksters

Malacañang warned pranksters yesterday that they face severe penalties if they are caught making fake bomb threats to the detriment of the public.

The Palace received a report about the false bomb threat at the Assumption College in San Lorenzo, Makati City.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that the school received a bomb threat and the students were evacuated.

“We would like to remind the public that anybody who is caught giving false bomb threats or giving false information would be investigated by the Department of Justice. This does not help in today’s circumstances and (DOJ) Secretary (Leila) de Lima has said that there will be very severe penalties for anybody who is caught giving false information about bomb threats,” Valte said.

“In the hotline of the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), 98 percent of the calls received are prank bomb threats. We would like to reiterate that this is a serious matter, this is not a laughing matter, and we would like to remind everybody that anyone who is caught giving false information will be dealt with severely,” Valte stressed.

Valte said all information about bomb threats through texts or calls must be verified with the authorities.

“Anybody who intentionally calls an institution and warns them of a bomb threat, knowing fully well that there is none (will be liable),” Valte said.

Valte said it would be up to the DOJ “to determine what is the possible sanction that may be given to pranksters who may think it funny to send a fake bomb threat.” – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Aurea Calica

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