Bombings had trademark of Indon terror suspect, probers say
Quezon City (13 October) -- THREE homemade bombs that exploded this week in Cotabato, including one that killed six people, were set off by mobile phones, a sign that officials believe points to Dulmatin, one of Asia’s most wanted terror suspects.
A fourth unexploded bomb, made of two 81 mm mortar rounds attached to a Nokia mobile phone, was found Wednesday near a public plaza in Makilala town, site of the explosion that killed six people and wounded 29 the night before, police said.
When investigators examined the mobile phone, it had one missed call—an eerie indication of the attacker’s failed effort to trigger a deadly explosion, a police official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
While an investigation has just begun, officials strongly believe it will eventually lead to Dulmatin and his group, the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been blamed for some of the region’s worst terrorist strikes.
Police intelligence officials have said Dulmatin, from Indonesia, introduced bombs made with mobile phone-triggered mortar rounds with small electrical boards to Filipino guerrillas in secret training camps in the south.
Previously, Filipino Muslim rebels generally used grenades or other forms of hand-thrown explosives.
Although authorities have not seen Dulmatin—his black-and-white mug shot on the US’ most-wanted terrorist posters is several years old—investigators have followed the bloody trail of lethal bombings he allegedly helped stage from Indonesia to the Philippines.
His war also may have turned personal. Last week, troops captured his wife, Istiada Binti Oemar Sovie, and took custody of his two sons on southern Jolo Island, where Dulmatin, Patek and leaders of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group have been targeted by a US-backed offensive.
“We’re looking into the angle that the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah did the bombings to retaliate against the capture of Dulmatin’s wife,” AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon told reporters Wednesday.
Authorities know little about Dulmatin. A US government Web site that offers a $10 million reward for his capture describes him as an electronics specialist who trained in al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and is a senior Jemaah Islamiyah figure.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol yesterday pointed an accusing finger at the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, accusing it of involvement in the bombings.
But rebel officials and a Catholic priest said the bomb attacks were intended to derail the already shaky peace negotiations and that a third party was behind it.
Piñol, who met with military and police officials in the province, said all indications point to the MILF’s involvement in Tuesday night’s bomb attack in Makilala, North Cotabato that left six people dead and wounded 29 others.
“The Jemaah Islamiyah’s hands are visible here. The JI masterminded it, the MILF acted as the executioner,” Piñol told the Inquirer by phone.
The MILF has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing run and even offered to help government agents identify and arrest the suspects.
The numbers on the cell phone that was used in the bombing, he said, was traced to Basit Usman, an alleged commander of the MILF’s 105th base command.
“The mobile phone that was recovered in the unexploded bomb proved to be a rich trove of information that clearly identified the people who implemented the series of bombings in Central Mindanao Monday and Tuesday,” Piñol said.
But MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Piñol’s accusation was “highly unfair.”
“There is no political gain for the MILF in terrorism, besides being a crime to God,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal told the Inquirer that Usman has never been an MILF member.
“We know that he had been previously arrested for various crimes. He was jailed but was later released upon the military’s intervention,” he said.
“The MILF now cannot wash their hands and simply say they knew nothing of the bombing that killed and injured my people,” Piñol said. (PIA) [top]