Drug angle eyed in N. Cotabato Christmas Eve grenade attack

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato — Officials here said the Christmas Eve attack in front of a Catholic Church was meant for the police and not for the church.

Mayor Romeo Arania of Midsayap said investigation showed the explosion was clearly meant for the police and was related to illegal drugs.

Arania told reporters the main target of the attack by two motorcycle-riding men were the police officers who were part of security during the Christmas Eve mass.

“If it were for civilians, the grenade could have been lobbed in populated areas like the plaza or the Church or the market but it was thrown under a parked police car,” Arania said.

Arania quoted Supt. Bernard Tayong, Midsayap town police chief, as saying they have been receiving threats after successful anti-drug operations.

President Duterte is expected to visit Midsayap this afternoon to visit the victims.

“Continue to be vigilant, be alert and inform the police about suspicious persons or baggages,” Arania told Midsayapenios.

Leah Butan, about 60 years old, lost a leg in the blast while Regor Pedrozo was brought to Davao City for further medical treatment.

Senior Police Officer Jhonny Caballero, 41, team leader of a police unit securing the perimeter of Sto. Nino Parish Church, was near the police car when the fragmentation grenade was rolled under the car. He sustained leg injuries.

Fr. Jay Virador of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate condemned the attack and urged parishioners to remain calm and continue praying amid violence.

Arania also condemned the attack saying the incident could be a retaliatory attack by illegal drug syndicates who would like to get back at the police for successful anti-drug operations.

A village chair escaped police-military operation last November but government forces recovered high powered firearms, including cal. 50 machine guns and assault rifles.

Arania said after that operation, the police have been receiving threats through text message warning of retaliation. PNA-northboundasia.com