A powerful bomb explosion in Cotabato City killed six people, including Chief Inspector Mama Manambuay of the Maguindanao police intelligence unit, and injured 33 others, including Chief Inspector Abubakar Mangelen, Monday 4 p.m. The bomb was rigged to a vehicle on a busy intersection on Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City.
The attack happened a month after the US, Canada, and Australia warned their citizens against traveling to Cotabato and two other southern cities because of fresh terrorism attacks. This is the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days.
The explosion happened in front of a residential-commercial area, close to the medical center and funeral home at the height of the afternoon rush hour. City police Chief Senior Superintendent Rolen Balquin said the explosion was so powerful it lopped off the heads of two of the victims.
Balquin added that the explosion site was significant because it was close to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) compound. The explosion triggered a fire that engulfed a nearby mortuary and tire repair shop and damaged four vehicles parked near the van parked earlier near a school and funeral parlor by still unidentified man. The fire also hit at least 10 houses.
The explosion was so strong it could be heard at the Governor’s office 600 meters away. All the injured were taken to CRMC (Cotabato Regional Medical Center).
The bomb exploded as the city Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi’s SUV was passing by. The police is still investigating whether Sayadi is the target of the attack or her brother, Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.
Sayadi was not hurt, but her two bodyguards were killed in the security van. Two hours after the explosion, Sayadi strongly believed she was the target but did not disclose if she knew who tried to kill her.
The Aquino government condemned the bombing and vowed to hunt down and punish those responsible. Government authorities did not point to any suspects, but the forces have been on alert in Mindanao island due to the recent bombings and attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters opposed to the peace talks.
“We condemn the use of violence to kill and maim our countrymen who are peacefully going about their daily lives. We’ll hold accountable these criminals who terrorize our society,” said Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
The motive for the bombing is still being investigated, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Cotabato is a Muslim-Catholic city where Muslim insurgents waged a decade of rebellion that claimed over 150,000. The Aquino government condemned the attack and vowed justice for the victims.
The explosion occurred shortly after a breakaway rebel faction, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), warned of attack against military targets, until they achieve a “genuine Bangsamoro state.”
The BIFF split from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2011. They are opposed the preliminary peace deal between the President Benigno Aquino government and the MILF for the establishment of Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao, which is hoped to conclude the final peace agreement.
It is still unclear whether the attack is linked to the BIFF warning which happened a week after the Cagayan De Oro City, July 26 bomb attack at a restaurant packed with pharmaceutical salesmen and doctors that killed eight people and injured 46 others.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas