Bomb goes off in Lamitan hours after mayor declares city Abu Sayyaf-free

Teofilo P. Garcia Jr.

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Bomb goes off in Lamitan hours after mayor declares city Abu Sayyaf-free
The explosion mars the 17th anniversary of the cityhood of Lamitan, Basilan

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines – Authorities started an investigation into a bomb explosion at a gas station that marred the celebration of the 17th anniversary of the cityhood of Lamitan, Basilan, on Tuesday, June 18.  The explosion occurred just hours after Lamitan was declared an Abu Sayyaf-free city by its mayor.

Lieutenant Colonel Arlan Delumpines, Lamitan City police chief, said the bomb, which was improvised, went off around 6:47 pm at a gasoline station in Barangay Matibay. 

Security forces were deployed to conduct mobile patrols, especially in areas known to be frequented by criminals. Troops manning checkpoints were ordered to stay alert.

Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman condemned the bombing, and directed authorities to identify and bring those responsible to justice.

Delumpines said they suspected that the explosion, which hurt a 20-year-old passerby, was related to an extortion attempt. He said the gas station’s owner had informed the police in May that he had received an extortion letter.

He said crime scene investigators found parts of the improvised bomb, including a blasting cap, a nine-volt battery, and powder residue. 

A day after the explosion, police announced they have identified “persons of interest” from CCTV footage to help build their case.

Abu Sayyaf-free?

The explosion occurred hours after Lamitan Mayor Roderick Furigay declared the city free from the dreaded Abu Sayyaf during his State of the City Report (SOCR) on Tuesday morning. The declaration of Lamitan City as ASG-free was the highlight of the celebration of the 17th year of cityhood of Lamitan that day. 

Furigay, who chairs the city’s Task Force to End the Local Armed Conflict (TF-ELAC), the local counterpart of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), appealed to Lamiteños to stay calm and vigilant, assuring them that authorities remained in control of the situation.

Brigadier General Alvin Luzon, 101st Infantry Brigade commander, said Furigay’s declaration was a result of collaboration among the security sector, the city government, barangays, and concerned citizens. However, he noted that it also serves as a challenge for the security sector to sustain the gains.

“We are committed to continuing our mission to ensure peace and security in this city,” Luzon said.

Lamitan came into the spotlight on June 2, 2001, when Abu Sayyaf militants entered the city, seized a church and a hospital, and took priests, medical staff, and patients hostage.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Serapion Lagud Jr., commander of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion, said on Saturday, June 15, that they have identified no Abu Sayyaf member who originates from Lamitan City. 

“They are not even considered ASG members. They are just lawless elements claiming to be one (Abu Sayyaf),” Lagud said. –

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