Authorities zero in on suspects in Basilan New Year’s Eve bombing PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 January 2014 17:29

Either the deep-seated animosity between the Abu Sayyaf and militiamen in the community, or grudges among members and officials of a local rubber cooperative farm could have led to the December 31 deadly grenade attack in Sumisip town in Basilan.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, chairman of the ARMM’s peace and order council, told Daily Zamboanga Times that the two possible angles on the bombing, which left seven dead and injured six others, are now being pursued by police investigators.

Hataman said he has been receiving persistent feedback purporting that the bombing suspects could be from Sapah Bulak, a farming enclave near Barangay Tumahubong, where they bombed a gazebo full of people on the eve of New Year’s Day.

“There are also other angles being studied now by investigators. We just have to patiently wait. Criminal cases will be filed against the culprits,” Hataman said.

Barangay Tumahubong is at the center of a vast rubber plantation originally owned by the American multinational tire manufacturer BFGooodrich, which eventually became a cooperative entity managed by workers when the farm was subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in the 1980s.

Members of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council (PPOC) in Basilan held Thursday an emergency meeting and discussed the recent violent incidents in the province, and formulated measures to prevent a repeat of them.

The PPOC is chaired by Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar, who has also actively been helping resolve the December 31 bombing in Barangay Tumahubong.

The meeting was jointly presided over by Akbar and Hataman, who is chairman of the larger ARMM regional peace and order council, whose members include the region’s police director, Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, and senior officials of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

Hataman said mayors in the island province and its provincial governor have expressed willingness to help pursue the restoration of peace in the island province at least by the middle of 2014.

Hataman had earlier offered to shell out an amount as a reward in exchange for any information that would lead to the arrest of the suspects behind the bombing in Barangay Tumahubong.

Hataman already extended financial assistance to the families of each of the slain villagers. The ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Relief Team, led by Regional Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia, has also been assisting since January 1 the blast victims undergoing medication at a hospital in Zamboanga City.

Talks have been circulating in Barangay Tumahubong and surrounding areas in Sumisip that the bombers had actually targeted the San Vicente chapel in the village, but changed their plan when they saw soldiers guarding the surroundings of the worship site.

The two suspects, whom witnesses said were riding a motorcycle together, were seen roaming suspiciously around the chapel minutes before a powerful explosion ripped through a gazebo in a yard about 150 meters away. — FO