PNP tags local terrorist groups in Cotabato blast

MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Tuesday that local terror groups could be responsible for the mall blast in Cotabato City which left two persons dead and 34 others wounded on New Year’s Eve.

Chief Supt. Benigno Durana, PNP spokesperson, said based on the result of the post-blast investigation, they found that the modus operandi and “signature” on the bombing incident, initially tagging ISIS-inspired local terrorist groups in the area.

“Terrorism, extremism and terror attacks coming from these extremist groups most of them are ISIS and Daesh inspired. Itong (this) Maute group, ito yung (this is the) local ISIS-inspired elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters etc. Ito po ay kagagawan nila sa kanilang mga ‘signatures’ (This is their handiwork based on their ‘signatures’),” Durana said in a radio interview.

He said PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde has ordered the creation of a special investigation task group to probe the incident.

“It’s a good principle in any investigation that we are not in just one possible suspect at the early stage of the investigation. We are casting a wider net, so we will not be missing some areas. The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) that the PNP chief ordered to probe is now following a lot of leads to know these perpetrators, the individuals so that we can arrest them as soon as possible and we can crack this case as soon as possible,” he added.

Durana said there could have been more attacks from local terror groups had martial law not been not imposed in Mindanao.

“The security forces cannot guard every inch of Mindanao. That’s why the people’s cooperation and vigilance not just security sector’s vigilance is equally if not much more important in keeping our communities safe and secure. But one way or the other one or two incidents may fall on some cracks. This is true not only in the Philippines but also in much more developed countries like in Europe who are likewise facing the same global problem of terrorism,” Durana said.

Durana said the safety and security of the people in Mindanao are better now due to the signed peace agreements with Moro National Liberation Front and recently the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that brought, despite some challenges, more stability and more positive economic outlook in the region.

Based on reports, a loud explosion occurred in front of South Seas Mall located on Don Rufino Alonzo Avenue, Poblacion 5, Cotabato City at around 1:59 p.m.

Senior Supt. Rolly Octavio, Cotabato City police director, immediately ordered the nearby police units to cordon off the area, secure the people, flash an alarm to all concerned units and evacuate all the casualties to different hospitals.

Police found a second bomb at the baggage counter on the second floor which was eventually disarmed by military bomb disposal experts.