MANILA, Philippines – The military said that the twin bomb attacks on a military camp in Sulu's Indanan town on Friday, June 28, showed a similar pattern to the attack on a Roman catholic church in nearby Jolo town earlier this year.
"The latest bombing incident is similar to what had happened in Jolo Catheral. There were two people and the explosion happened one after the other. I've seen a pattern," Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Major General Cirilito Sobejana told Rappler in a phone interview on Saturday, June 29.
Sobejana said the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Sawadjaan was also behind the Friday attack. "Wala namang ibang group. 'Yung mga monitored foreign terrorists nag-merge sa group ni Sawadjaan (There is no other suspect. The foreign fighters we monitored have merged with Sawadjaan's group)."
Sobejana, who assumed his post only on Friday, flew to Sulu Saturday morning to supervise the investigation into the attack that – just like the Jolo Cathedral blast – was feared to be case of suicide bombing.
Initial military reports described the attack as a case of suicide bombing and the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) had claimed responsibility, but Sobejana said military and police investigators have yet to determine how the IEDs were detonated.
"Hawak-hawak ng bombers ang bomba. 'Di ba ang suicide bombing, siya rin ang mag-trigger sa sarili niya? Hindi natin ma-establish. 'Yun nga ang ongoing investigation ng SOCO at ng EOD natin. Ang tinitingnan natin 'yung triggering mechanism. Kung remotely triggered o sila mismo," said Sobejana.
(The bombers were carrying the explosives. If it's suicide bombing, they should also trigger the explosives themselves, right? We can't establish that. That's the subject of the ongoing investigation by SOCO and our EOD. We are looking for the triggering mechanism.)
The first improvised explosive device went off at a military checkpoint outside the camp of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The second IED exploded inside as the second bomb carrier ran to enter the camp.
"Mahirap naman ma-conclude agad na it was a suicide bombing kasi dalawa ang pwedeng mangyari: pinasabog ng another person remotely or 'yung mismong tao namay hawak (It's hard to make a quick conclusion that it was a case of suicide bombing. Two things could have happened. It was triggered by another person remotely or the bomb carriers themselves detonated it," said Sobejana.
Sobejana said they also could not establish the nationality of the bomb carriers. The head of one the bombers was found almost intact but Sobejana said the bomber was "Asian-looking." The soldiers who interacted with the bombers at the checkpoint were all killed.
The military is seeking the testimonies of at least 10 civilians wounded in the blast but many of the residents had evacuated the area.