The police in Central Mindanao region have been placed on alert after a series of explosions and discovery of explosives in the area.
Director Felicissimu Khu, chief of Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) in South-Western Mindanao, said the series of bombing attempts in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao has confirmed police intelligence reports that Basit Usman, a known Jemaah Islamiyah-linked bomb maker, was to deploy bombers in the region.
Usman, according to Khu, has joined the group of Umbra Ameril Kato, a renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader wanted for atrocities in North Cotabato in 2008 following the botched signing of a GPH-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
Khu said the series of bombing attempts in Kabacan and Carmen in North Cotabato and Isulan, Sultan and Cotabato City has the “signature” of Basit Usman, who, according to intelligence reports, has trained locals in bomb making using 60-mm or 81-mm mortars.
“These improvised bombs have the same make and composition,” Khu said in a radio interview even as he urged the public to provide the police with information leading to the neutralization of Usman or his recruits.
Since Wednesday until Saturday last week, at least 10 IEDs were found and exploded in North Cotabato, Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat. The latest was the discovery of “twin” IEDs at a road side in Barangay Poblacion, Buluan, Maguindanao.
Bomb experts safely defused the IEDs, Khu said.
“So our intelligence information that came up as early as October 30 was correct,” Khu said, adding that the group was planning to conduct bombing activities in South Cotabato and Saranggani.
“Our troops there are already alerted,” according to Khu who downplayed criticism what he was doing was causing undue alarm to the public.
“This is not an alarmist act, this is talking one step ahead of the lawless elements…it is better we make this public that react after these bombers have accomplished their evil acts,” he said.
He stressed the need for public support. “All of us are stakeholders, we have roles to play to save lives,” he said.
Three IEDs were found in Kabacan, North Cotabato on Wednesday last week, one of which went off but nobody was hurt. The other two were defused.
In Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, an alert tricycle driver prevented what could have been a disaster when he alerted the police about his discovery of a suspicious bag at the back of a gasoline station.