A passenger van slows down at an army checkpoint guarded by militias in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 28, 2011) – An improvised bomb exploded on Friday and wounding a policeman in Cotabato City in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the bomb exploded in downtown Cotabato at around 9.25 a.m., but no individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
The bombing occurred two days after an improvised bomb went off in the village of Sangali in Zamboanga City and killed a civilian and wounding eight other people.
“We still have no report who was behind the bombing or the motive of the attack,” Army Colonel Noel dela Cruz, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said security forces are in red alert status because of the bombings in Zamboanga and the recent fighting between troops and rebels in western Mindanao.
The latest attack coincided with the visit of senior government officials to Zamboanga and Basilan to assess the security situation in those areas following the spate of bombings and series of fighting that left dozens of soldiers and Muslim rebels dead and wounded.
Peace and order
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo arrived in Zamboanga City with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles and visited the provinces of Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay, scenes of the deadly clashes last week that forced some 20,000 people fleeing to safety.
The three officials also joined the provincial peace and order meeting in Basilan and met with representatives of different sectors on the aftermath of the fighting in the town of Al-Barka.
Robredo said the meeting intended to draw lessons from the incident to stabilize Basilan and bring development soon while at the same time push for the rule of law and pursue violators.
After the meting in Basilan, they also proceeded to Zamboanga Sibugay and held a similar conference with provincial and municipal officials, including the police and military, said Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command.
Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “The government is extending P10 million in assistance to five affected municipalities in Zamboanga Sibugay for Cash for Work program to help displaced families.”
On Thursday, Army General Raymundo Ferrer, Western Mindanao military chief, said they have occupied a Muslim rebel base used as springboard for terror attacks and kidnappings-for-ransom in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Payao town after days of air strikes and ground assault.
He said the offensive was part of an operation to flush out rebels headed by Wanning Abdusalam, who was tagged as behind the spate of kidnappings and terrorism in the region. But there was no sign of Abdusalam or his group, although military commanders insisted that the rebel leader had been wounded in the fighting with security forces.
Abdusalam, a leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, was disowned by his own group on Tuesday following deadly air strikes by military forces on a guerilla base on a remote Payao village called Labatan.
President Benigno Aquino ordered rejected calls to suspend the peace talks and pursue the rebels, and instead ordered security forces to go “all-out justice” for more than two dozen soldiers killed in the fighting.
The MILF protested the government attacks on its camps in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay and accused the military of violating a fragile truce. The rebel group maintains that government offensives were directed at the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. (Mindanao Examiner)