Military foils Abu Sayyaf bomb plot in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine military announced on Thursday afternoon the recovery of four Abu Sayyaf improvised explosives and rifle grenades and claimed to have foiled a bomb plot in the southern province of Basilan where security forces are hunting down members of the pro-IS group.

Army Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the explosives were owned by the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama. He said the recovery of the explosives in Cambug village in Al-Barka town was the result of intelligence operations by various army and navy units.

The town is also a known lair of the former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.

Vinluan said the explosives were made from AN/FO or ammonium nitrate/fuel oil hidden in containers. Security forces also recovered a 9-volt battery, one pressure-type switch, one improvised blasting cap, 20 pieces of projectiles, one 40mm grenade, one 40mm practice grenade and detonating cords.

“This (operation) is attributed to our intensified offensives and intelligence monitoring, and the strengthened collaboration with our partner agencies and stakeholders,” Vinluan said as he appealed to the public to remain vigilant.

Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway, commander of the Joint Task Force Basilan, confirmed the find and said: “The IEDs were made by the ASG members under Furuji Indama and were recovered through our intensified intelligence monitoring.”

Both Vinluan and Gobway did not say whether the Abu Sayyaf is planning to bomb civilian or military targets in Basilan, one of five provinces under the troubled Muslim autonomoua region.

But barely two hours after they announced the seizure of the Abu Sayyaf explosives, the Western Mindanao Command said it was recalling the news release sent out to dozens of journalists for a still unknown reason.

“Please delete the posted press release that was sent this afternoon (time 4:50 p.m.),” the military said in a statement without elaborating why it wanted the news report deleted.

On April 12, a roadside explosion set off by the Abu Sayyaf injured a soldier and a civilian in the village of Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo town, also in the province. A group of soldiers were patrolling the village when an improvised explosive went off.

Vinluan branded the attack as a “horrendous act” and condemned the bombing and called on the locals to stay vigilant and help authorities prevent similar attacks by reporting suspicious persons or abandoned baggage which may contain explosives.

Last month, Abu Sayyaf terrorists also bombed a bridge in Basilan’s Sumisip town, but failed the blast failed to destroy it. The attack occurred after the bridge’s contractor allegedly failed to pay extortion money to the Abu Sayyaf.

The terrorist group sent a letter to the project contractor and demanded money, according to authorities which tagged Abu Sayyaf commander Pasil Bayali as behind the bombing.

In October 2019, government forces thwarted planned attacks by Abu Sayyaf terrorists under Indama to bomb the circumferential road following a clash with gunmen in the village called Calang Canas in Maluso town and troops had recovered 6 improvised explosives.

But a suicide attack a year earlier by Moroccan IS fighter Abu Katheer al Maghribi in Basilan’s Lamitan City left over a dozen casualties. Authorities said 11 people were killed when a car bomb exploded at a security checkpoint in Bulanting village, about 2 kilometers away from downtown Lamitan.

The powerful explosion obliterated the vehicle and left a huge crater and among those killed were a woman and a child; and the militia commander whose unit is under the supervision of the Philippine Army. Five soldiers and several civilians were also wounded in the explosion.