(Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed on Tuesday (July 31) that the driver of the van that exploded at a checkpoint in Barangay Colonia in Lamitan, Basilan was a member of an Abu Sayyaf Group unit led by Furuji Indama.
AFP Spokesperson Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo said the military had received an intelligence report prior to the incident that Indama’s group were planning to deploy explosive devices around Basilan. The report prompted the authorities to deputize and intensify all checkpoints in the province.
Arevalo, however, noted that there is no confirmation yet to reports that the driver was a foreigner.
He asks the public to refrain from using the phrases “lone wolf attack” or “car or suicide bombing” while the investigation is still underway.
“Huwag na po nating dagdagan pa ang pangamba na naramdaman ng ating mga kababayan sa Basilan. Huwag na po nating dagdagan sa pamamagitan ng iba’t ibang mga haka-haka, mga opinyon at impormasyon na wala naman pong validation o verification,” Arevalo appealed.
The AFP Spokesperson called the group’s move as an act of desperation to stop other ASG members from returning to the government side.
“Napakarami na nang sumukong miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf. They come in groups with their firearms at ito ang gusto nilang mapahinto. They are losing their grounds that’s why ito ang kanilang resort na ginagawa sa ngayon,” Arevalo explained.
Nevertheless, the official assured that the “local police and AFP personnel are not stopping their investigation and they are pursuing every lead to identify and neutralize all those who are part of this abominable attempt by terrorists to kill innocent civilians and destroy properties.
Malacañang, meanwhile, condemned the terror attack that claimed the lives of 11 people and injuring seven others.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest terrorist attack in Basilan perpetrated in by a violation of our laws,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.
Despite the loss of lives, the AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. “commended the vigilance and dedication to duty and the sacrifices of the gallant men who have foiled the attempt to bring in a vehicle loaded with IED’s to downtown Lamitan City at the cause of their own lives.”
Members of the PNP-ARMM have intensified their checkpoints, foot patrols, and police visibility to thwart more terror attempts in the province. – Lea Ylagan / Marje Pelayo
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