Army blames rogue Moro rebels with JI ties in Cotabato cathedral bombing

July 5, 2009 10:30 pm 

COTABATO CITY, July 5 – The military here has blamed the local terrorists with links to regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in the Sunday morning blast in front of a Catholic cathedral that left five persons dead and 36 others wounded.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, regional Army spokesperson, said the improvised explosive device that went off beside a roasted pig store across the Cotabato Immaculate Conception Cathedral "has the signatures of the renegade Moro Islamic Liberation Front."

"This group has links with the Jemaah Islamiyah," Ponce said, adding that the bomb was fashioned from a 81 mm mortar with battery operated trigger mechanism.

The MILF could not be reached for comments.

No one has claimed responsibility in the attack, which came at about 8:40 a.m. just as churchgoers were leaving the cathedral compound and another mass had just started.

Police identified the dead as Ruby Ramirez, 43, of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and caretaker of Elsie Omega Lechon House where the bomb was planted; Prince Allen Cang Diaz, grand son of Patricio Diaz, former editor-in-chief of Church-run weekly The Mindanao Cross; Paulo Kahar; and an unidentified man believed mentally ill.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo was presiding the next mass and he has just finished reading the Gospel and was to start the homily when a the bomb ripped through a busy Quezon Avenue.

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema condemned the attack and directed the police to secure all places of worship in the city.

Witnesses said the suspect was last seen running away from the roasted pig store when the explosion occurred.

"The bomb could have been intended for Church goers inside the Cathedral but the presence of uniformed soldiers prevented the bomber to set the explosive inside," Ponce said.

Twelve hours earlier, two bombs were planted in a thickly populated Datu Piang, Maguindanao where thousands of internally displaced persons were temporarily sheltered.

Ponce said a powerful IED, fashioned from 60 mm mortar, went off in Barangay Buayan in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao province.

Another 81mm mortar explosive was discovered near the scene of the blast.

Elements of the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion had cordoned off the area while operatives of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team of the military were defusing the 81-mm mortar explosive.

Three persons identified as Kudting Latip, Adshare Akmad, and Mohaliden Undungan suffered minor injuries. Ponce blamed the rogue members of the MILF whom he said were targeting even non-combatants. (PNA)

RMA/NYP/EOF/jmd

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