Two suicide bombers remain on the loose but the military said they are contained in Sulu and their apprehension is now the top priority of intensified and focused military operations by security forces.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the two suicide bombers are still in the island-province.
The two were among the five suicide bombers unleashed by Abu Sayyaf commander Hadjan Sawadjaan, now the recognized emir or leader of the Islamic State in southern Philippines.
Sobejana vowed that government forces will do everything to prevent the two from pulling off their mission.
“They are still at large…they are the subjects of manhunt, on top of our ongoing focused and intensified military operations,” Sobejana said.
“They are just isolated in Sulu,” he added.
Bombers won’t escape
Sobejana further vowed “we will not let them sneak out (of Sulu) because that will be difficult, they can have opportunity in other areas.”
Three of the bombers have already pulled off their missions — the latest was on Sunday when a Caucasian-looking woman blew herself up in front of the gate of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion detachment in Barangay Tagbak, Indanan.
Fortunately, only the suicide bomber was killed during the attack as soldiers on-duty, who even warned the suspect, managed to take defensive position due to their suspicion.
The first two suicide attacks were those of Norman Lasuca and his unidentified companion last 28 June against the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team in Barangay Kajatian also in Indanan. Eight people died during the attack, including the two bombers.
Revenge as motive
Sobejana said that the suicide bombers are targeting military posts due to the sustained pressure against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.
“In three occasions (bombings), they targeted military installations…they really want to avenge their huge setbacks in our relentless focused military operations,” Sobejana said.
Meanwhile, WestMinCom spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas is not discounting the possibility that the suicide bombers would also target populated areas.
Encinas called on the public to remain vigilant to thwart a possible terror plot.
“For us to ensure our own security is to be more aware and conscious on what is happening in our surroundings, be extra vigilant and be cooperative to our security forces,” Encinas said.
He said the military has intensified monitoring of all threat groups and established constant communication with the communities and engagement with local government units.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo is asking the public to remain vigilant and to continue with their everyday living.
Arevalo said there is no room for complacency and that people should continue observing their surroundings and what is happening around them.
He stressed that the Abu Sayyaf group will never stop from plotting to sow terror.
“There are three things that we are very sure about, number one, these kinds of groups won’t stop from doing these kinds of attacks that’s why we are saying we need to be more prepared,” Arevalo said.
With Mario J. Mallari