Manila– The Abu Sayyaf claimed they were behind several bomb blasts in thePhilippines, including one that went off inManila’s financial district of Makati, on Feb 14. But the government has not ruled out the possibility that the bombings were the work of a new terrorist alliance with links to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI).
At least 12 people died and about 150 injured when three explosions jolted the country on Valentine Day’s evening. The apparently coordinated blasts, all within an hour of each, shook a mall in the southern city ofGeneral Santas, a bus terminal inDavaoCity, and a passenger bus inMakati.
The blasts came at a time when the military and a group of rebels, which include Abu Sayyaf members and followers of jailed Muslim separatist leader Nur Misuari, remain locked in bloody standoff inJolo islandin the southern Sulu province.
The Abu Sayyaf, a small rebel group linked to Al-Qaeda and better known for their kidnapping and beheading activities, claimed credit for the bombings.
Shortly after the last explosion rockedMakati, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman called a radio station to say that the bombings were their “Valentine gift to Gloria”, in reference to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo.
However, police officials inManilasaid they were looking into the possibility that JI-trained militants might have linked up with Misuari’s supporters followers and Abu Sayyaf to carry out the bombings.
A source in the intelligence community told The Philippine Star that remaining JI elements in the country took advantage of the standoff in Jolo to show off their strength once more after a hiatus in their assaults.
The JI needed the support of Misuari’s followers since they could not have carried out the bombings by themselves.For their part, Misuari’s followers are feeling the pressure of the military offensive in Jolo “so they have to come up with something to divert attention”. the source added.
Some 300 JI members are believed to be in thePhilippines, but they have been divided into individual cells, each assigned with separate tasks and dispersed across the country.
* New terror alliance eyed in Valentine’s Day blasts (The Philippine Star, Feb 16)
* The way of terrorists (Inquirer News Service, Feb 16)