The gathering of school children that a bomber targeted to attack. Photo inset shows Abu Sayyaf militant Fathy “Mike” Lijal, the driver of the bomb-laden van.
Photos courtesy of DepEd Lamitan Office (main photo) and relatives of Fathy Lijal (photo inset)
Basilan bomber appears to be targeting school children in Lamitan
John Unson (philstar.com) - August 3, 2018 - 1:33pm

BASILAN, Philippines — The driver of the bomb-laden van that exploded Tuesday in Lamitan City may have targeted a parade in a terror plot that vigilant Muslim militiamen prevented promptly.

The moderate Sunni Muslims Adlan Abdullah, Muid Manda and Titing Omar of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit and Private 1st Class Samad Jumah of the 19th Special Forces Company, died together in the incident.

They died preventing the bomber from proceeding to Lamitan City to bomb a parade of no fewer than 2,000 school children and teachers commemorating the national nutrition month, according to sources in the different municipal governments in Basilan.

Jumah and the three CAFGUs intercepted at a checkpoint in Barangay Bulanting the van carrying explosives, fashioned from ammonium nitrate soaked in kerosene and mixed with potassium chlorate, its driver detonated when a team of soldiers arrived to help search his vehicle.

The blast killed ten, among them a 10-year-old child passing by.

Local community leaders are certain the slain bomber was to drive through Lamitan City where children from different schools and their teachers paraded Tuesday morning and converged subsequently in an open field for a program related to the observance of the nutrition month.

“The activity proceeded successfully even as the news about the explosion in the city’s outskirt spread through the barangays and caused tension among our people,” Lamitan City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay said Friday.

Furigay only retorted “I leave everything to the police and the military” when asked about stories purporting that the target of the bombing was the gathering of school children.

“We have long been receiving tips on terror plots and we have informed authorities about these tips. We are thankful to the soldier and CAFGUs who prevented that van from getting through Lamitan City,” Furigay said.

Text messages have been circulating since Wednesday hinting that local members of the Abu Sayyaf, among them a certain Fathy “Mike” Lijal, an ethnic Yakan, were behind the supposed bombing in the center of Lamitan City.

Barangay officials said the Western Mindanao Command and the Philippine National Police should investigate deeper on the terror cell where Lijal belong, certain that it has benefactors abroad.

The group was said to have declared war early on against the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, for building concrete roads that made their enclaves accessible to military combat vehicles.

Lijal’s group is also reportedly opposing ARMM’s colossal Basilan transcentral road project now cutting through the forested hinterlands in the Sampinit Complex in the middle of the island province, their last bastion.

Engineer Soler Undug, the chief of the Basilan District Engineering Office who is overseeing infrastructure projects of the ARMM government in former Abu Sayyaf strongholds survived four bomb attacks in recent years.

Almost 200 Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan have surrendered in the past 24 months through the joint intercession of the provincial police, units of the 104th Brigade and the ARMM regional peace and order council.

Elected officials in different municipalities in the province said Tuesday’s botched bombing in the city proper of Lamitan was meant to stir up an impression that the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan has not been weakened by the recent surrender of members in batches.

The Abu Sayyaf only has three remaining hardcore commanders now in Basilan, Furudji Indama, Radzmil Janatul and Jobel Abdullah.

Dozens of their followers have returned to the fold of law, now being reintegrated into mainstream society by the WestMinCom and different ARMM line agencies.

Janatul and Abdullah have reportedly sent surrender feelers to certain local officials in Basilan, but are yet wary to bolt out due to the standing criminal cases against them in local courts.

Abdullah’s group twice tried to kill Furigay, now in his second term as vice mayor of Lamitan, using improvised explosive devices.

BASILAN BLAST
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