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BASILAN, Philippines – The military on Wednesday, June 1, linked the Abu Sayyaf to bomb attacks in Isabela City even as the police identified several persons of interest.
This came even as investigators concluded that the explosion outside the Isabela branch of the popular fast-food chain Jollibee on Monday afternoon, May 30, was the handiwork of bombers, and not an accident.
The first explosion, between 5:33 pm and 5:45 pm, was initially dismissed as an accident that resulted from faulty electrical wirings until investigators obtained CCTV footage that showed it was deliberate.
The bombing was followed minutes later by a powerful explosion inside the garage of the bus company D’Biel Transportation in Barangay La Piedad.
The second explosion hurt two people and damaged a truck and several parked buses.
Police said the garage explosion was traced to a box that was left behind by a passenger.
Task Force Basilan commander Brigadier General Domingo Gobway earlier said the passenger was a woman who allegedly entrusted the box to a bus conductor.
Lieutenant General Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the military’s Western Command, said the military sees the Abu Sayyaf as the group behind the bomb attacks.
Colonel Junpikar Sitin, police chief of Isabela City, told Basilan-based broadcaster DXNO that police have identified four persons of interest in connection with the bombing outside the Jollibee branch.
Sitin said investigators got hold of CCTV footage that showed a man placing a plastic bag in the parking lot of the fast-food restaurant.
The plastic bag, according to Sitin, was believed to contain the crude bomb that went off.
In a separate statement, the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s information office said the man, wearing a yellow t-shirt and a cap, was seen leaving the plastic bag with a small container just outside the establishment shortly before the explosion.
Sitin, however, said police investigators were still digging deeper in their investigation into the twin bombings, and would rather not pin the blame on any group at this time.
Police have so far established that the bombers used improvised explosive devices in the attacks, he said.
“We are still finding out exactly what the motive was,” added Sitin.
In a statement, Lieutenant General Vicente Danao Jr., acting PNP chief, said, “Our investigators are doubling time to identify the culprit of these two incidents and to establish the possible connection of both.” – with reports from Herbie Gomez/Rappler.com