MANILA, Philippines – The military said on Wednesday, October 16, that it foiled a bomb plot of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan.
The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said in a statement on Wednesday that this happened after a raid that led to an armed encounter with the terrorists before dawn on Tuesday, October 15.
Troops of the Alpha Company of the 68th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were acting on a tip about a planned bomb attack when they encountered around 15 Abu Sayyaf members in Barangay Calang Canas in Maluso, Basilan.
A heavy firefight broke out and lasted about 30 minutes until the bandits withdrew, taking their casualties with them, Westmincom said.
Soldiers with bomb-sniffing dogs afterwards scoured the location and found 6 improvised explosive devices (IED). The bombs were “about to be laid along the Basilan Circumferential Road,” Westmincom said.
“The troops were acting on a report received from a reliable source regarding the plan of Furuji Indama’s group to create havoc in our area of operation,” said Brigadier General Fernando Reyeg, commander of Joint Task Force Basilan.
He was blamed for the van explosion that killed 10 people and wounded 9 others at a paramilitary outpost in the outskirts of Lamitan City, the capital of Basilan, on July 31, 2018.
It was the first in a series of alleged suicide bombings traced to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan and Sulu provinces.
Indama had been a close associate of Isnilon Hapilon, the ASG leader who became the head of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group in the Philippines, and who was killed by the military after he led the 5-month siege of Marawi City in 2017.
Indama’s influence in Basilan is said to have declined but the emergence of suicide bombers in the region appears to have renewed the threat posed by the ASG.
The military is also looking at the group as possibly behind the abduction of Allan and Wilma Hyrons from the couple’s beach resort in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, on October 4.
The bombs recovered from Tuesday’s encounter have been turned over to the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, as troops continue to pursue the bandits who fled the scene, said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom chief.
“We are grateful for we incurred no casualty during the operation and we were able to secure the IEDs and foil the bomb plot of the enemies,” Sobejana said in a statement.
“The successful recovery of the IEDs is attributed to the concerned citizen who provided the information, to the local government units of Basilan, and to our gallant soldiers who are always steadfast in accomplishing their mission,” he added. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.