The Western Mindanao Command’s (WestMinCom) admission that there are still two more possible suicide bombers being trailed by security forces while martial law is still in effect in the region should be enough to alarm all of us.
A suicide bombing attack at a military detachment in Sulu marked the eve of the observance of the Zamboanga attack by the forces loyal to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in 2013.
It came just a day after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began decommissioning about a thousand firearms on its way to peace with the government.
Another blast was recorded at the Isulan market in Sultan Kudarat on Saturday.
A bomb stuffed in a motorcycle was detonated in a parking area, hurting at least eight people. No death was reported, though.
Two blasts in three days. Those are alarming.
But Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s WestMinCom, said we have not yet seen the full plot laid by the Abu Sayyaf.
According to Sobejana, they are still hot on the trail of two more out of five foreign jihadists who have answered the ISIS call to bring their war to the Philippines, center of a long-drawn separatist war by two organizations — the MNLF and MILF, both of which have inked peace deals with the government.
Sobejana’s report came following Sunday’s attack on the camp of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion in Indanan town by a Caucasian-looking suicide bomber, whom the military believes was a female until a DNA test it had initiated prove its hunch wrong.
Three of these foreign jihadists, according to Sobejana, have carried out their suicide bombing missions. So, there are two more?
But where are they? Who are they?
Sobejana would rather not tell at this moment of writing. The military is keeping further information from the public and understandably so.
But while four suicide bombing incidents have been carried out by jihadists in the Philippines, only one of these was confirmed to have been executed by a Filipino.
On 28 June, also in Indanan, Norman Lasuca and an unidentified partner set himself off at the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, killing eight and wounding 22 people.
Lasuca was officially the first Filipino suicide bomber, although in 2002 another suspected local fighter would have qualified.
Then Defense Sec. Angelo Reyes did not name the motorcycle-riding assailant, nor call him a suicide bomber, although he admitted that bombs were attached to his bike when he attacked American soldiers, one of whom was killed in the blast, outside of a karaoke bar in Zamboanga in 2002.
Reyes, however, admitted that it was a “suicide attack.” Twenty other people were injured in that attack.
Locally-trained rebels, however, have taken over their dead leaders who had been trained in conflict zones like in Afghanistan and other war zones where they had been exposed to the more radical thoughts.
These new and bolder ideas appealed to the younger Muslim set which dissociated from the MNLF and the MILF.
The Abu Sayyaf, which initially linked with the al-Qaeda and later with the Daesh/ IS, is sending signs it is ready to take over the vacuum left by the MNLF’s and MILF’s signing of peace accords with the government.
It has Lasuca for its martyr hero. And it is importing terror now, through the foreign volunteers who were eager to show religious martyrdom to those who have decided to follow Lasuca.
This bunch started as child warriors for the Abu Sayyaf, including Lasuca. This new breed of fighters only need a spark which Lasuca had provided and which these foreign suicide volunteers are eager to keep lit.
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) — the result of the decades-long peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, is being tested.
And peace in the region remains elusive.
Terror and territory
Today marks the anniversary of that tragic event in human history — the 9/11 suicide mission that killed thousands — reminding us once more that the fight for peace isn’t over.
Why must we fight for peace?
“These scare tactics are being linked to alleged discontent related to the Bangsamoro law that the Duterte government had passed.
In our own backyard, the Muslim separatist movement had caused decades of discord and violence in the south.
Over the past decades, this had invariably spawned other forms of violence and crime, making our world a lot less brighter to live in.
These last few weeks alone, the reminder has ever been more glaring with suicide bombings happening in Sulu.
The first Filipino suicide bomber joined the ranks of infamy — dying to kill!
This reminds me of a transcript I came across, called “The Motivations of Suicide Bombers,” published online on 14 November 2005 following hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, in which “one of the attackers was found alive…after her bomb failed to detonate.”
The transcript showed the discussion with three experts on “what motivates suicide bombers to kill for a cause.”
One of them, Robert Pape, is a professor at the University of Chicago and wrote “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.”
Really, what would make someone — like that suicide bomber in Indanan recently — wear a pack of explosives around his or her body and willingly go where they will die, taking other souls along with them?
Pape said, “…it’s not the profile most people expect. I’ve studied 462 suicide terrorists from around the world since 1980 who actually completed the mission. Over half are secular. The world leader is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka: A Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group.
Instead of religion, what over 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980, all around the world, have in common is a specific strategic goal — to compel modern democracies to withdraw combat forces from territory the terrorists prize greatly.”
So, we wonder, why are we having these suicide bombings in our shores?
The Philippine Army has confirmed the alleged suicide bomber who attacked Sulu on Sunday was a Caucasian woman.
The abaya-clad woman had ventured in an area near a military checkpoint in Indanan town, Sulu.
The soldiers’ quick action ensured that no one else got hurt, unlike in the previous bombings in Sulu that had casualties, injuries and damages.
What is deeply troubling is that the armed forces have confirmed they are monitoring two more suspected suicide bombers, “on the loose,” as this paper’s headline blared yesterday.
These scare tactics are being linked to alleged discontent related to the Bangsamoro law that the Duterte government had passed.
It is suspect, for instance, that a bombing should occur soon after the Bangsamoro’s new leadership asked rebels to lay down their arms and enter the civilian life.
While many are hopeful about these developments on the slow road to peace in Mindanao, there, too, are those who seem determined to destroy whatever gains have been achieved.
To ordinary people, it is not fear anymore that immediately bubbles up upon hearing of those bombings. More likely it is frustrated curiosity — the biggest ‘whys’ that even government should take the effort to answer.
What do these violence-sowing groups have to gain in their killing sprees?