5 suspects in Jolo blast surrender

MANILA — Five members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group allegedly behind the twin bombings of a church in Jolo, Sulu have surrendered to authorities, Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said on Monday.

In a press briefing held at Camp Crame, Albayalde identified the suspects as Kammah Pae, alias Kamah; Albaji Kisae Gadjali, alias Awag; Radjan Bakil Gadjali, Kaisar Bakil Gadjali and Salit Alih.

The suspects gave themselves up after a joint pursuit operation by police and military.

He said suspects are now facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges before the provincial prosecutor of Sulu.

Albayalde said the five suspects are included in the 22-man team led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan belonging to a group of Abu Sayyaf personalities being eyed in the bomb attack on the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral that killed 23 persons and wounded 95 others.

He said during the paneling at Kammah’s house, authorities found assembled Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and IED components which were subsequently disrupted by the explosives and ordnance team.

He said 14 more suspects remain at large, including the mastermind, Sawadjaan, while three others, including the two Asian suicide bombers, were killed in the blasts.

Aside from Sawadjaan, the suspects include Makrim Habbisi, Barak Ingug, Usman alias Ubin, a certain alias Arab Puti and nine John Does.

Albayalde said based on police investigation, on January 8, Puti and Alih bought IED components from hardware in Latih in Patikul, Sulu but later abandoned the effort.

On January 12, Sawadjaan met with Usman and Ingug in Bastiong, Patikul and gave them the funds for the bomb attack.

On January 24, an unidentified Asian couple who served as the suicide bombers who were holed up in Lampingan Island sailed to Jolo on board a pump boat.

Upon arrival in Jolo, the suspects boarded a tricycle going to Caltex Tiam to meet Awag, Alih and Radjan. The couple, along the Alih and Radjan, boarded Awag’s jeepney along with five boys who later alighted from the vehicle.

The couple was brought to Barangay Langhub in Patikul, near Usman’s house and they were joined by Kammah, Barak, Makrim and Usman and they proceeded to Sitio Bastiong, Barangay Langub.

“The couple alighted at Bastiong and walked towards the forested area escorted by Kammah and Barak where they met Sawadjaan to further plan the bombing,” Albayalde said.

On January 26, some of the group’s members escorted the couple to Jolo and stayed within the town for their mission the next morning.

“The following morning, it is believed that the Indonesian woman detonated the first IED inside the Jolo cathedral while the man detonated the second IED at the church entrance seconds later,” Albayalde said.

Albayalde said from fragments and components recovered at the scene, forensic technicians reconstructed the two detonated IED made from common GI pipes that served as casing which possibly containing ammonium nitrate-fuel oil compound as primary explosive charge.

He said the design of the IED is similar to that of being used by the Abu Sayyaf group, particularly in the five recent incidents in Basilan and Sulu in 2016 and 2017.

“One incident in Sulu on Mar. 12, 2017 along Scott Road, Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo, involved an IED similar to the ones detonated in the Mount Carmel cathedral last week,” Albayalde noted.

“Two similar IEDs were also detonated by the Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan City on March 19 and 20, 2017, while four more similar IEDs were defused by the military in Barangay Magcawa, Al-barca, Basilan on May 20, 2016,” he added.

Albayalde said the investigation on the church bombing is still far from over as “there are more pieces of evidence that need to be carefully examined to test its consistency with other facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.”  Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / PNA – northboundasia.com