Extortion eyed in Jolo blast

David Yu Santos
Local traders 'continue to receive threats'

EXTORTION THREAT. A Marine soldier guards an area in Jolo town's commercial district. (File photo courtesy of flickriver.com)

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities in Sulu have yet to complete the reconstruction of the improvised explosive deviced (IED) used on Saturday (March 3) night’s bombing in Jolo town but the local police are zeroing their investigation on the usual suspects: the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

There is no other group that could commit this kind of terroristic act except the Abu Sayyaf,” provincial police chief Sr Supt Antonio Freyra told Rappler.

At least 2 people were killed while almost a dozen others were injured when a bomb went off in front a business establishment along Serantes St. in Jolo shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3. The explosive was reportedly placed beside a power generator of the Cleopatra Commercial Store, owned by a local prominent Filipino-Chinese family.

Initial police investigation indicated that the owners of the store could have been the subject of the bomb attack.

Apparently, quite a number of the local businessmen in Jolo continue to receive extortion threats from the ASG,” Freyra said, adding that the bomb attack was a way of the lawless groups “to warn” traders who have refused to give in to their demands.

Quoting intelligence reports, Joint Task Force-Comet officer-in-charge Col Jose Johnriel Cenabre said that the IED was made of “unexploded mortar round placed in plastic container with a cellular phone as the triggering device.”

Freyra said that the examination of pieces of the bomb’s fragments were still being examined by post-blast investigators will take “a few days” before the “signature” that could lead to the identities of the attackers could be determined.

Almost a year ago, a powerful explosion outside a Jolo public school killed 5 people and injured scores of others. Accordingly, a convoy of policemen and soldiers were passing by the Salih Ututalum Elementary School along Scott Road when the homemade bomb went off, hitting instead pedestrians and motorists during the afternoon rush hour last March 10, 2011.

It was also the ASG that were pinpointed to be behind the March 2011 bombing,” Freyra said. “The manner of the attack are similar.”

Freyra said the police are also looking into the possible angle that the explosion could have been a retaliation for the death of a holdup suspect last week, who was neutralized after local residents tried to fight him off. – Rappler.com

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