Extensive probe on Lamitan City gas station bombing sought

John Unson - Philstar.com
Extensive probe on Lamitan City gas station bombing sought
A passerby was slightly hurt during the bombing of a fuel retail station in Lamitan City on June 18, 2024.
Photo courtesy of Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY — Residents have urged for a deep probe into the bombing of a fuel station in Lamitan City, Basilan on Tuesday night. They are convinced that it was merely meant to embarrass the officials who declared all of its 45 barangays as Abu Sayyaf-free earlier the same day and not a terror attack.

Gov. Hadjiman Salliman, chairperson of the Basilan Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), officials of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade and the Basilan Provincial Police Office declared Lamitan City on Tuesday morning as cleared from presence of the Abu Sayyaf as a result of cross-section peacebuilding initiatives.

“I condemn that atrocity in strongest terms,” Salliman, whom barangay leaders in Lamitan City patronize politically, told reporters in Cotabato City and other areas in the Bangsamoro region via text message after the incident.

A passerby was slightly hurt in the bombing of the roadside fuel station in Barangay Matibay, according to officials of the Lamitan City Police Station and the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade.

Besides Lamitan City, officials of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, the provincial police, municipal and provincial officials led by Salliman also declared last June 4 Abu Sayyaf-free the municipality of Lantawan, scene of deadly clashes between terrorists and soldiers many years before.

Police Lt. Col. Arlan Delumpines, Lamitan City police chief, told reporters on Wednesday morning that extortion was the most likely motive for the bombing and was not perpetrated by Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

A number of traders in Basilan, covering 11 towns and two cities, Lamitan and Isabela, reportedly received letters from anonymous senders demanding protection money, warning of attacks if they refuse to cooperate.

Brig. Gen. Prexy Tanggawohn, director of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, on Wednesday ordered police officials in Lamitan City to investigate extensively the assertions that the fuel station bombing was a ploy to discredit the local executives, the police and military officials who declared the city and Lantawan town, about 50 kilometers away, as absolutely cleared from presence of the Abu Sayyaf.

Records from PRO-BAR and the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City indicate that more than 400 members of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan have surrendered in batches since 2015 through the intercession of Salliman, Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, different Army and police units and the League of Mayors in the province, all of them reintroduced to mainstream society, now thriving peacefully as farmers and fishermen.

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