Philippine Rebels Deny Links To Bombing

April 14, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
A Philippine Army soldier guards the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Zamboanga City after a bomb exploded below one of its stairs Sunday, April 13, 2008. A second bomb was detonated at a commercial building, about 2 kilometers away from the church. There were no reports of casualties. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 14, 2008) – Muslim rebels negotiating peace with the Philippine government on Monday assailed police authorities for linking them to twin bombings in Zamboanga City.

Unidentified bombers struck early Sunday in the southern port city, simultaneously detonating bombs at a Catholic church and a commercial building housing the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

No one was killed or injured in the attacks, but police quickly blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the smaller and most violent militant group, Abu Sayyaf.
The first bombing occurred at around 4 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in downtown Zamboanga. The second bomb was detonated five minutes later outside the Vienna Kaffee Haus near the Foreign Affairs regional office, about two kilometers away.
The bombings came barely a week after Australia and the United States warned their citizens against traveling to Zamboanga City and other parts of southern region because of threats of terrorism and kidnappings.
“The MILF has nothing to do with the bombings. Why blame the MILF for the failure of the police to prevent such attacks? If there is anyone to blame for the bombings, it is the authorities. They failed top prevent terrorism,” an MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner.
Kabalu said the MILF is currently negotiating peace with Manila and signed a cease-fire agreement in 2001. “We are not a terrorist group. The MILF is negotiating peace with the Philippine government and there exists a truce accord and there is no reason for us to fight. We want peace to reign,” he said.
No group or individual claimed responsibility for the bombings and police said the motive of the attack is still unknown.
Police said it is tracking down three men, believed responsible for the bombings, after a church caretaker told investigators he saw the trio carrying bags inside the Cathedral compound minutes before the blast. Mayor Celso Lobregat condemned the bombings and appealed for sobriety and vigilance.
Lobregat said the authorities are on top of the situation. “We are doing everything to identify the perpetrators of this dastardly act,” he said.Two cars parked at the church compound were damaged when the bomb, believed to be assembled from an 81mm mortar, exploded under a concrete stairs leading to the main altar.
Kabalu said the MILF is working closely with the government through the so-called ad-hoc joint action group to track down criminals and terrorists.
The MILF forged an agreement in 2004 that paved the way for rebel forces to help government hunt down terrorists and criminal elements in areas where the rebel group is actively operating.
The rebel group in the past provided the government of a list of suspected Filipino and Indonesian terrorists operating in Mindanao. It previously helped Philippine authorities track down and arrest suspected Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants in the troubled region.
Last year, MILF rebels rescued a German national Thomas Wallraf and three other Filipinos kidnapped by bandits while traveling in the southern province of North Cotabato.
In 2006, the MILF rescued a kidnapped nine-year old girl, Donna May Ramos, in Basilan island after rebels stormed the hideout of her captors and arrested two men, who were later executed. Rebels also freed a kidnapped social worker, Henry de Guzman, in the southern province of Lanao del Norte.
A bombing in Zamboanga City last year was also blamed to the Abu Sayyaf, but the police said three suspects they arrested pointed to a military intelligence agent as the mastermind. The accusation caused a silent rift between the police and military.(Mindanao Examiner)

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