PNP says Cotabato blast is ''an act of terrorism"
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr. said a New Year's Eve blast in a Cotabato shopping mall where two persons were killed and 32 injured was "an act of terrorism".
The police and military cited the involvement of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-linked group in the explosion.
In a television interview over ANC, Durana said "definitely by all indication it is an act of terrorism. Initially our investigators are seeing involvement of ISIS (Islamic State)- inspired local terrorist group by how the bomb was made and deployed."
Major Gen Cirilito Sobejana, commander of 6th Infantry Battalion, tagged the Daulah Islamiyah as the group behind the blast.
"Based on the investigation of our EOD (Explosive Ordinance Division) experts, we saw that there was a similarity between the recovered IED (Improvised Explosive Device) to the usual IED made by Daulah Islamiyah members. So we realized that they are responsible for the explosion," Sobejana said in a separate interview over ANC.
A faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) denied allegations of involvement in the incident.
"We will never do that. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters follow the principles of Islamic ideology, We will never commit any acts detrimental to a lot of people, Abumissry Mama, spokesperson of BIFF-Bungos Faction said in an interview with ANC.
Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani said prior to the incident, they have received threats, one of those are allegedly from a Moro Islamic Liberaton Front (MILF) commander.
"One of those threats is coming from the commanders of the MILF, one of the commanders of the MILF. In fact, it aired in social media and was circulating all over Cotabato City. In that video he said that those who will not vote for yes (on the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Law), there will be consequences," Guiani said in an interview with ANC.
"He said they're willing to risk everything just to get Cotabato City. That's a threat," she added. Guiani added that Cotabato City might reject the BOL due to the recent incident.
MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said there's no basis for that.
"The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is not forcing anybody to vote yes. Because as a matter of fact, there is no need to intimidate the people of Cotobato City to vote yes for the BBL because they are all supportive of the BBL," Jaafar told ANC.
"We are focused now on information and educating campaign on the BBL in preparation for the coming plebiscite on January 21," he added.
In a statement on Monday, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim condemned the explosion saying that they are saddened that it occurred while they are preparing for the plebiscite on the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on January 21, 2019.
"The dastardly act of putting an improvised explosive device (IED) with intent to kill or harm civilians is an act of cowardice, inhuman, and atrocious," he said. Cristina Eloisa Baclig/DMS