Philippine military blames IS-linked group for deadly bus bombing in south

Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales
2022.11.07
Cotabato, Philippines
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Philippine military blames IS-linked group for deadly bus bombing in south Burnt kitchen items are seen in front of a wall spray painted with the word “ISIS” in a home in a war-torn area of Marawi City, Lanao del Sur province, Philippines, May 11, 2019, two years after pro-Islamic State militants laid siege to the city.
[Reuters/Eloisa Lopez]

The Philippine military on Monday blamed the Filipino unit of the Islamic State militant group for the bombing of a passenger bus that left one person dead and injured 11 others at the weekend in the volatile south.

The vehicle from the Yellow Bus Line, with 29 passengers aboard, was approaching Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat province when the home-made bomb went off at noon on Sunday, regional military commander Maj. Gen. Roy Galido said.

“This is a cowardly act of the terrorist group and peace spoilers that put the lives of innocent civilians in danger and doing so is a violation of both human rights and international humanitarian law,” Galido said.

“In this regard, we are working with the police investigators and ready to assist them in law enforcement operations to neutralize these terrorists.”

Philippine National Police spokeswoman Col. Jean Fajardo said the likely motive was extortion. She noted that the same bus line was attacked in a May bombing that wounded two passengers.

“Before the bombing incident, the management of the Yellow Bus received a call. Apparently they are extorting money from the bus company,” she told reporters in Manila.

Galido identified the suspects as members of the southern-based group Daulah Islamiyah, the Filipino term for Islamic State. 

It consists of fighters from several Filipino militant factions, including the Maute Group, which had provided men for the siege of Marawi City by pro-IS militants in 2017 that left more than 1,200 people, mostly combatants, dead

PH-PIC-Main.jpeg
A bus said to have been targeted in a bomb attack by the Filipino unit of the Islamic State extremist group is seen near Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat province, southern Philippines, Nov. 6, 2022. [Handout photo/Philippine National Police]

The military said the latest bombing could also be a diversionary tactic by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), another pro-IS group, to ease military pressure against them. Many of BIFF’s fighters often operate with other groups, such as Daulah Islamiyah.

Suspected members of a BIFF unit have been on the run from military personnel since Saturday, when government troops killed two militants during an operation in Shariff Aguak, a town in Maguindanao province. The military launched the offensive in retaliation for a militant attack that killed one soldier as soldiers manned a bridge in the area on Friday.

Rommel Banlaoi, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said BIFF was gearing up for more attacks after its leader, Abu Turaife, allegedly released a new video urging his followers to press on with a jihad in the south.

Turaife is one of the hardcore leaders of BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014 and now controls a Muslim autonomous area in the south.

“The remaining followers of Turaife have acquired the skill of bomb making from their previous colleagues in the MILF,” Banlaoi said.

A BenarNews correspondent contributed to this report from Zamboanga City, Philippines.

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