Concerns over security high in Maguindanao

COTABATO CITY, Southern Philippines — A bomb exploding near a town official’s house in Shariff Aguak and two Special Forces teams getting ambushed in Mother Kabuntalan, both last Wednesday, is raising doubts as to how secure Maguindanao province is for the holidays,

“The motive and identity of the suspect are still (being) ascertained,” admitted Lt. Col. Prudencio Asto, information chief of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division, when asked of the bombing.

The ambush on the army Special Forces teams, on the other hand, has been blamed on a kidnap-for-ransom group believed to be headed by a certain Kumander Moda and Norhan and operating largely in Central Mindanao.

No one was reported hurt in both instances.

In the Shariff Aguak incident, the bomb merely wrecked the gate leading to the home of Palapas Baludo, an employee of the Shariff Aguak Office of the Municipal Registrar.

The ambush on the two Special Forces team, on the other hand, was reportedly cut short when the soldiers returned fire.

Improvised

Asto described the bomb in Shariff Aguak as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which used a 105mm mortar as charge. It was connected to a mobile phone and a 9-volt battery.

It was left inside a small culvert which fronted the Baludo home in Barangay Poblacion Mother and went off around 10:30 in the morning.

This is not the first time an IED exploded in the provincial capital.

Last month, a day before the commemoration of Maguindanao Massacre, another IED went off near the Shariff Aguak Central School and injured two individuals, including the wife of another town official.

Asto does not know who the target of the latest IED attack was but close allies and relatives of Andal Ampuatuan Sr., one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao Massacre, reportedly live close to the blast site.

Security

Maguindanao and falls under the watch of the 6th Infantry Division, also known as the Kampilan Division, and based in the neighboring town of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

Regular patrols are conducted in key areas, including Barangay Katidtuan in the town of Mother Kabuntalan, where the Special Forces soldiers came under fire.

The soldiers belonged to two Special Forces teams who were patrolling a river in boats when attacked. A 20-minute firefight then ensued but the attackers managed to escape despite heavy fire and artillery.

The patrol, on the other hand, was part of an intensified police and military operation targeting kidnap groups, their latest victim being a school girl snatched from her home in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

The girl was being accompanied by her father to a school Christmas gathering when the snatch took place and her father got shot trying to prevent the daughter from being taken. (Written By Ferdie B. Cabrera for PECOJON PH)