Manila, Aug 26 (efe-epa).- The Philippine army and police have called for martial law to be re-imposed in the troubled Mindanao region to contain the jihadist threat following Monday’s twin attacks attributed to the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Sulu province, which claimed the lives of 15 people and injured 75.
“This will allow the military and police more operational flexibility to carry out law enforcement operations against domestic threat groups in the area,” Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa said in a statement late Tuesday.
Gamboa’s remarks followed those of the Philippine Army chief, Lieutenant Colonel Cirilito Sobejana, who in a radio interview hours earlier also advocated the return of martial law in Mindanao, which includes Sulu.
This Muslim-majority region was under martial law between May 2917 and December 2019 following the siege of the city of Marawi by terror groups, liberated after five months of fighting.
In the interview, Sobejana also said that developments in the investigation suggest that the two bombs that exploded in a central area of the city of Jolo were detonated by two suicide bombers.
This contradicts the initial version that the first explosion was caused by a bomb attached to a motorcycle while the second was detonated by a suicide bomber.
Eight soldiers, one police official and six civilians were killed in the twin attacks, according to the latest victim count, while DNA samples of the attackers are being collected to confirm if there were one or two suicide bombers.
The suspects are an Indonesian woman, the widow of Normal Lasuca, the first Philippine suicide bomber responsible for the June 2019 attack on the city of Indanan, also in Sulu province, and the Filipino wife of one of Abu Sayyaf’s ringleaders, known by the nickname Abu Dalha.
Lasuca, the first Filipino ever to carry out a suicide attack, killed three soldiers and three civilians by detonating a bomb at the entrance of a military camp in the town of Indanan, located in the remote province of Sulu.
Sulu has become the main refuge of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim Filipino group that swore loyalty to the Islamic State in 2014 and is believed to be behind the recent suicide bombings in the Philippines over the past two years.
The investigation also indicates that the daughter of the Indonesian couple of suicide bombers, linked to Abu Sayyaf, who carried out an attack – one of the worst in the country in recent years – during Sunday Mass at the Jolo cathedral in January 2019, in which 23 people were killed and more than 100 were injured, may also be behind the attack.
The authorities are also hunting for Mundi Sawadjaan, a bomb expert that they consider to be the intellectual author of Monday’s double blasts.
He is the nephew of the leader of Abu Sayyaf, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who is an IS emir in Southeast Asia.
Although Islamist terrorism is not new to the Philippines, suicide attacks do not correspond to the classic modus operandi of local groups, a new threat in the country, which has already recorded five such attacks in two years, all claimed by IS and committed with the logistical support of Abu Sayyaf.
It is believed that there are some 300 Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu along with 100 foreign terrorists fleeing the extinct caliphate of the IS, which would have imported a more radical version of jihad into the Philippines. EFE -EPA