Friday, August 06, 2010

Police begins probe into Zamboanga airport bombing

Sulu Governor Sakur Tan shows reporters his wound Friday, August 6, 2010 after a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive outside the Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. Tan, 60, says he was the target of the attack that also killed a civilian and wounded at least 24 others, including a British man Charles McKerchar, 69. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 6, 2010) – Police ordered a thorough investigation into a bombing in Zamboanga City that nearly killed an influential politician in the southern Philippines.

Sulu Governor Sakur Tan survived a suicide bombing shortly after he stepped out of the Zamboanga International Airport on Thursday evening, but a civilian was killed along with the bomber. At least two dozen people, including a British man, Charles McKerchar, airport were also wounded in the blast.

Tan admitted that he has been receiving death threats from political foes and said he was the target of the attack. “There were people telling me to take precautions because I will be bombed and that I will be killed,” he said.

Police have identified the bomber as Reynaldo Apilado, a carpenter, who lived on a village called Caragasan. One of his neighbors said she last saw Apilado carrying a green travelling bag on Thursday morning.

“I saw him and he was carrying a green travelling bag. I was shocked to learn that he was the man they said bombed the airport,” Apilado’s neighbor said.

Philippine police chief Jesus Versoza flew to Zamboanga City on Friday and met with Tan together with Marine General Benjamin Dolorfino and talked about the attempt on the life of the politician, a known philanthropist and a religious man.

“God saved me,” Tan said, adding, he was just a meter from the bomber when his backpack exploded.

Tan believes rival politicians with links to "terrorists" orchestrated the attack, and that he suspected the same people were behind an attempt on his life in May last year. “It is being investigated now by the authorities.”

A roadside bombing in May 13, 2009 also wounded Tan and at least 10 people who were in his convoy in Patikul town in Sulu province. Police said blamed the attack to Tan’s political foes after two Abu Sayyaf militants captured days after the bombing implicated them in the failed assassination.

The Philippine military confirmed that one of the men killed was carrying the bomb, but said authorities were still investigating whether there was a second man who could have remotely detonated the explosive.

“Authorities are reviewing the CCTV footage from the airport security camera,” Dolorfino said. “You can see Reynaldo on the video (footage) and he was just standing outside the airport arrival area just before the blast. He was just loitering there.”

The bombing occurred on the eve of visit of US Ambassador Harry Thomas who was to address human trafficking, among others, in Zamboanga.

Thomas cancelled his Friday visit because of the bombing. “Knowing that the PNP (Philippine National Police) is working hard to investigate this tragic incident, and understanding that my visit would require a great deal of security support, I have decided to postpone the visit I had planned today in order to avoid distracting the PNP from their most urgent task – investigating this heinous attack,” he said.

Thomas also condemned the bombing. “I deplore this heinous crime that victimized ordinary travelers. Our condolences to the innocent deceased and wounded victims of this brutal attack,” he said, adding, Washington stands ready to offer any assistance requested by Philippine authorities so that those responsible may swiftly be brought to justice. (Mindanao Examiner)

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