Tight Security For Arroyo’s Visit In Southern Philippines

August 22, 2007 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An old Muslim woman relaxes Wednesday Aug. 22, 2007 at a public park named after U.S. military commander Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines bombed late Tuesday. At least 14 people were wounded in the blast blamed by authorities to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. The attack came ahead of a scheduled visit of President Gloria Arroyo, who will preside over a military conference Thursday to discuss ongoing government offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo and Basilan islands, where dozens of soldiers had died in fighting since last month. The park was named after the American general who defeated Muslim insurrection in southern Philippines almost a century ago. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)


ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Aug) – Security forces have been tightened Wednesday in the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga following a bomb attack that injured at least 14 people.

The blast late Tuesday at a public park in downtown Zamboanga shattered glass windows of department stores around Plaza Pershing. Five U.S. soldiers were also spotted talking to Filipino bomb experts investigating the blast.

Blast investigators said they found fragments of magnet and a clock used as timing device to trigger the explosion and traces of chemicals suspected to be ammonium nitrate.

Police said it would release a sketch of one of three suspects in the bombing after witnesses provided vital information about the blast.

“We have at least three suspects. We already have a cartographic sketch of one suspect,” said Senior Superintendent Manuel Barcena, chief of the local police force.

Barcena said an IED or improvised explosive device was used in the attack. “It was an IED alright. We are still investigating who were behind the blast,” he said.

Military intelligence officials blamed the Abu Sayyaf for the attack.

The attack occurred ahead of President Gloria Arroyo’s visit in Zamboanga City and Basilan island on Thursday where she would preside over a military conference and discuss ongoing government offensive against the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

With Arroyo’s arrival, security has been tightened to ensure that the President would be safe while in Zamboanga and Basilan or that her presence will not be disturbed by any more bombings.

But the presence of many soldiers and policemen turned Zamboanga City into a virtual garrison. Troops were spotted patrolling downtown area and undercover agents scattered around here.

It was unknown whether the latest attack was connected to Arroyo’s visit or had anything to do with the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf and insurgents in the neighboring islands of Basilan and Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago, which is part of the five-province Muslim autonomous region, one of the most poorest area in the Philippines torn by strife and poverty.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but security forces were battling Abu Sayyaf militants in the two islands where 57 soldiers had died already in the fighting since last month.

The region’s governor Zaldy Ampatuan was never heard of and did not give any statements about the fighting in Basilan and Jolo that have displaced over 20,000 people, mostly Muslims.

In Jolo, Governor Abdusakur Tan has been closely working with different government agencies to address the growing concerns of refugees on the island. He also ordered security forces to arrest all civilians carrying illegal weapons.

Basilan governor Jum Akbar also is spearheading relief operations to feed some 12,500 refugees.

Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon on Monday warned of possible attacks on civilian targets that may be waged by Abu Sayyaf militants or their sympathizers.

Zamboanga City had been targeted in the past by Abu Sayyaf bombers.

The Abu Sayyaf is on the U.S. terror lists and Washington sent hundreds of troops in Zamboanga City and Jolo island to help the local military defeat the group, blamed for the spate of bombings and kidnappings of foreigners in the region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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