COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 23, 2007) – Police arrested two men implicated in a bombing in the southern Filipino province of North Cotabato.
Police said the two men, aged 19 and 20, were tagged by witnesses in Thursday bombing of the KMCC Mall in Kidapawan City.
Troops on Friday also tightened security in the province because of the attack blamed on the shadowy group called Al-Khobar. The group was previously linked to extortion activities and bombings in the region, said Army Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division.
“The bombing was believed carried out by the Al-Khobar. Intelligence reports suggest the attack was connected to a failed extortion,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
At least seven people were wounded in the attack after a bomb, left at the mall’s baggage counter, exploded.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police and military authorities blamed past bombings in the province to the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiya and their local affiliate, the Abu Sayyaf.
Ando said the military has been working closely with the local police force to hunt down members of the Al-Khobar group. “We are also in constant dialogue with the business sector and we assure our traders that we are doing our best to neutralize lawless elements,” he said.
Two powerful bombs also exploded in October at the busy business district of Kidapawan City that killed three people and wounded 32 others.
Soldiers in October also disarmed a homemade bomb planted at a market in North Cotabato’s Pikit town in October, but two other explosions inside two commuter buses in Marbel town injured several people.
The region is also where Filipino troops are pursuing Zulkifli bin Hir and two other Jemaah Islamiya bomb-makers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both tagged by Jakarta as behind the 2002 Bali bombings.
Manila said about three dozen other Jemaah Islamiya accomplices are believed hiding in Mindanao. The United States and Australia are helping the Philippines on its so-called war on terror by providing aid and training to local troops. (Mindanao Examiner)