Blast from Improvised Bomb Injures 2 Soldiers in Southern Philippines

BenarNews staff
Zamboanga, Philippines
Blast from Improvised Bomb Injures 2 Soldiers in Southern Philippines A police officer stands near a checkpoint where a car bomb exploded in Lamitan, a town on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, July 31, 2018.
[Handout/Philippine Army]

The Philippine army was hunting for three suspected militants after they detonated an improvised bomb that injured two soldiers at a checkpoint on southern Basilan Island on Tuesday, the military said.

A brief exchange of gunfire followed the early-morning blast at a roadside checkpoint set up by the 68th Infantry Battalion on the outskirts of Lamitan town, military officials said.

“The IED was planted by the men at the checkpoint. It resulted in the wounding of our two soldiers,” Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway, commander of the local army brigade and the Joint Task Force Basilan, told BenarNews.

The attack took place in the same area where a suspected Moroccan suicide-bomber killed 11 people in a car-bomb attack in July 2018. Philippine authorities blamed Abu Sayyaf, a militant group linked with Islamic State extremists, as being behind the 2018 attack.

Gobway identified the wounded servicemen as Corp. Cyrus Bunda and Pvt. Arny Vember.

“The wounded in action were stabilized and evacuated to the nearest hospital,” he said, adding that they were already out of danger.

Police and military investigators disclosed that three suspects on motorcycles were monitored near the site of the incident.

Two of them alighted and opened fire as the bomb exploded. They took Bunda’s rifle as they fled from the scene, local police investigator Maj. Nurhaib Bungkac said.

The identity of the attackers remains unknown at the moment, Gobway said, noting that the troops had already pushed Abu Sayyaf militants deep into the jungles of Basilan.

He said latest intelligence monitoring indicated that apart from the Abu Sayyaf, there were other groups hiding out in Basilan’s jungles.

“Hot pursuit operations were immediately deployed and intelligence monitoring intensified,” Gobway said.

The Abu Sayyaf group, a small but most violent local militant group, was organized in Basilan in the 1990s by an Afghanistan-trained fighter, Ustadz Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was slain in the late 1990s.

The group was linked to various Middle East and foreign terror groups like al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, and Islamic State.

In recent years, a Basilan-based leader of Abu Sayyaf, Isnilon Hapilon, allied his group with the Islamic State and was named overall leader of the IS branch in the Philippines.

In 2017, Hapilon led hundreds of fighters from Southeast Asia and the Middle East in a daring raid on Marawi. They intended to turn the predominantly Islamic city into the capital of an IS caliphate in Southeast Asia.

A five-month battle with government forces ensued before the militants were flushed out. Much of the city was reduced to rubble by the fighting. Hapilon was killed in October 2017, at the end of the battle of Marawi.

Intelligence officials told BenarNews that the Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan so far have failed to find a replacement for Furuji Indama, who succeeded Hapilon as the Abu Sayyaf leader in the province.

Government forces killed Indama during a firefight in Basilan last year. After his death, the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf unit had all but been defeated, though some militant factions were known to be consolidating their forces.


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