Sulu attack changes extremism level in PH: Lorenzana

The suspected suicide bomb attack at the tactical command post of the 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu that killed eight persons, including three soldiers, and wounded 22 others last June 28, has raised the level of extremism in the Philippines, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Monday.

He made this comment after noting that suicide bombing used to happen only in the Middle East.

“This has raised the level of extremism here and I think we have a lot of work to do, (we need) to talk to the leaders on the ground, the traditional leaders, the sultans, the datus, and also the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), I think they do not want that happening in their area, they want a BARMM that is peaceful so that development (can continue),” he added.

The June 28 incident is the third of its kind in Mindanao with the first in a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31, 2018, killing 10 people. The second was in a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu which killed 20 persons, including the alleged suicide bombers, last January 27.

Lorenzana said that he personally believes the attack on the 1BCT is a suicide bombing as the person carrying the bomb detonated it when he reached the perimeter.

“Yes, personally I think it’s a suicide bombing because he was carrying the bomb and he detonated it within the perimeter, there were two of them actually,” the defense chief said.

He also pointed out that martial law is not the answer to every security threat, in response to comments on how could such an attack happen in Mindanao when the entire island is still under martial rule.

He also noted the movement of the people is not restricted on the island.

“Martial law actually is not the solution to all these because anybody, an individual or two individuals can just go anywhere because we have not controlled the movement of people in Mindanao, you can basically go anywhere you want without any checkpoints sometimes, you just go, let them go, we just have checkpoints in areas that are dangerous, from one island to another but within the island you can go anywhere you go,” Lorenzana emphasized.

Regarding the ISIS claims it had perpetrated the bombing, Lorenzana said that they are still checking and waiting for DNA test results to back up conclusions.

“ISIS claimed responsibility but we are checking. In fact, somebody said the bombers were Indonesians, somebody said Filipinos, but let us wait for our conclusion until we get (to) the checking of the DNA of these people,” he added.

Earlier reports claimed that the remains of the alleged bomber were recovered by investigators on the scene and submitted for forensic tests. Lorenzana added they are still checking the extent of ISIS’ networks in the Philippines alongside with reports that Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Hatib Sawadjaan is the leader of Islamic State-linked groups in the country.

“We’re still checking, that’s the news coming out but we still have to check with, our friends in the Middle East, the Americans, the other security agencies,” he added.

Also, Lorenzana said the security forces in Metro Manila and other urban centers nationwide have to very vigilant to prevent a repeat of the incident. PNA