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Security heightened across the Philippines

Updated On: Oct 13, 2006

The Philippines have stepped up security after a spate of bomb attacks on the southern island of Mindanao.

The latest attack was an explosion outside a commercial building in Cotabato City on Wednesday (11 Oct) causing extensive damage to the building and cars although no injuries were reported. A second bomb was defused by police. Earlier on Tuesday, 12 people were killed and at least 42 wounded in a bomb blast in Makilala in North Cotabato province during a celebration to mark the town’s 52nd anniversary. The attack followed an earlier bombing in the busy market of Tacurong city, just 50km from Makilala wounding four people. All four bombs were made from 81-mm mortar shells detonated by mobile phones according to security forces.

The attacks came amid warnings from security experts that the Southeast Asian militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Philippine’s most violent militant group Abu Sayyaf were plotting attacks in retaliation for Manila’s continued support for the US “war on terror”. “This is a terrorist attack aimed to kill”, said Cotabato Citypolice Chief Peraco Macacua. The explosions could also have been prompted by the arrest of the wife of Dulmatin, one of the region’s most wanted terror suspects, according to security officials.

Authorities did not rule out that the attack could have been conducted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as the attacks bore a trademark of terrorists belonging to JI and the MILF although the spokesman for MILF denied his group had any role in the attacks.

Two days before the series of explosions, military officials received intelligence information that some terrorist groups are planning to bomb some areas in Mindanao. Despite security measures imposed by authorities, suspected terrorists still managed to inflict damage but on a smaller scale as other targeted cities such as Kidapawan and General Santos had strict security measures.

As more attacks are anticipated, the police and military forces are placed on heightened alert in the south and in Manila. Several governments such as the US, British, Japanese and Australian have issued warnings to citizens to restrict travel to Mindanao. “There is a high threat of terrorism throughout the Philippines and the British government continues to receive reports that terrorist groups are in the final stages of planning further attacks and believes that they have the capacity and intent to mount indiscriminate attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country,” said the advisory of British and Commonwealth Office.

In the Philippines, the National Police Chief has ordered all provincial, district and regional directors to step up intelligence gatherings and to deploy more men to protect vital installations and likely targets. “The government will make sure that the perpetrators are hunted down and brought to justice,” said presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye. The bombings have also prompted lawmakers to pass the Anti-Terror Bill to help law enforcement agencies deal with terrorism. The bill has been stalled in the Senate.

Sources:

Spate of bomb attacks in Mindanao (Straits Times, 12 October 2006)

Terrorists blast building (Manila Times, 12 October 2006)

Security high after Mindanao bomb (BBC news, 11 October 2006)

Fresh blasts as Philippines blames rebels for bombs (Reuters, 11 October 2006)

Abu Sayyaf, JI ‘no. 1 suspects’ in bombings – military chief (INQ7 Net, 11 October 2006)

Another bomb explodes in Cotabato City (Sun Star, 12 October 2006)

Military gets intelligence tips on bombing plots (Sun Star, 12 October 2006)

Philippines threat level raised after bomb blasts (Guardian Unlimited, 11 October 2006)

Anti-Terror Bill gains momentum (Manila Times, 12 October 2006)