Cotabato

Soldiers kill extremist group leader, 3 others blamed for Cotabato bus blast

Rommel Rebollido
Soldiers kill extremist group leader, 3 others blamed for Cotabato bus blast

EXPLOSION. A blast shatters the rear window of a Mindanao Star bus with 20 passengers along the Davao-Cotabato highway past 8 am on January 11.

Courtesy of Brigada News

Police point to a different group as responsible for the bombing – the Al-Khobar extortion group

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Soldiers killed a suspected leader of an extremist group whom the military claimed masterminded the January 11 bombing of a bus in Aleosan town, Cotabato province.

Army Major General Juvymax Uy, commander of the Joint Task Force Central and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the suspect, Norodin Hassan a.k.a. Andot, and three others were killed during an encounter resulting from a military manhunt operation in Cotabato on Saturday, January 15.

The military said Hassan was military affairs head of a Daulah Islamiyah-inspired group.

Colonel Jovencio Gonzales, commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, identified two of Hassan’s three slain associates as Abdonillah Hassan a.k.a. Don and Abdonhack Hassan a.k.a. Abdon. A fourth suspect has yet to be identified.

Soldiers killed the suspects during an operation in Carmen town in Cotabato province.

The military blamed the Hassan group for the bombing of a Mindanao Star bus on a road in Aleosan town that killed a five-year-old boy and hurt six others last week. The bus came from Davao and was bound for Cotabato City when an explosion ripped through the vehicle.

The Army said soldiers seized a 7.62 mm M14 rifle, a caliber 30 M1 Garand rifle, ammunition, analog cell phones, solar panels, and an ICOM radio transceiver.

Soldiers also found documents with “high intelligence value.” 

Gonzales said the Army immediately launched manhunt operations against the Hassan group as soon as the military identified them to be behind the bus bombing, and “to prevent them from doing similar atrocities in other areas.”

The initial police investigation, however, pointed to a different group as responsible for the bombing.

Before the January 15 encounter, the Cotabato police said the bombing was the handiwork of the Al-Khobar, a notorious extortion group, behind several bomb attacks in the province in the past.

Cotabato police deputy provincial director Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Tayong said the pieces of evidence gathered at the crime scene indicated that the Al-Khobar was behind the recent bomb attack.

Police have stepped up security measures in Cotabato and areas in the Soccsksargen region following a spate of violence, including the January 11 bomb attack, in the province. 

Aside from the bombing in Aleosan, a still-unidentified group killed a barangay official in Pikit town. A police-military outpost in Pikit was also attacked with a grenade, but no one was hurt.

“We are on double alert status,” said Tayong. – Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship