Manila – A bomb buried in a box of clothes exploded onboard a passenger ferry, leaving 30 people injured in the southern province of Basilan on Aug 28. While the authorities were quick to point their fingers at the Abu Sayyaf terror group, an editorial in The Manila Times lamented at the failure – yet again - of the police and military intelligence networks to prevent the attack.
The MV Dona Ramnoa was about to set sail from the Dangkalan Wharf in Lamitan to the port city of Zamboanga at around 7am when an explosion ripped through the ship's lower decks. Most of the victims suffered light to severe burns. Others were hurt in the stampede to leave the ship.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Generoso Senga said the Abu Sayyaf was behind the bombing. "That is the consensus of all investigative agencies that are handling the case. That is the initial conclusion," he told reporters at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Aug 28.
He said the investigators' conclusion was based "on the existing threat and the capability of the group to conduct such an atrocity". However, investigators have not determined if the Abu Sayyaf staged the bombing with the help of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the regional arm of the Al-Qaeda terror networ, Lt-Gen Senga added.
Abu Sayyaf, which was established in the 1990s with funding from Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, has been blamed for some of the Philippines' worst terror attacks in the past five years.
In its editorial, The Manila Times described the Philippines as a country "under siege". It also blamed the bombing on the "failure of intelligence".
"These three words had gotten the Armed Forces and police in big trouble before. We expect critics to pounce on military and police officials demanding to know why their intelligence networks had failed to gather hard information on the plot to bomb a ferry in Basilan."
It noted that the governments of Australia and South Korea had warned recently that Al-Qaeda was targeting the Philippines for an attack.
"We assume our security officials had been properly apprised of the threat. The question is. did they make the necessary preparations to meet that threat? ... Our security officials must not wait until the bomb explodes. They should head off the terrorist threat," the newspaper said.
* 30 hurt in ferry blast in Basilan (The Philippine Star, Aug 29)
* Terrorism makes a comeback (The Manila Times, Aug 29)
* Abu Sayyaf behind Basilan ferry explosions (Inquirer News Service, Aug 29)