Timeline of events leading to Jolo cathedral ‘suicide bombing’

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Philippine National Police (PNP) Police Director General Oscar Albayalde has released, February 4, the timeline of events surrounding the January 27 Jolo cathedral bombing after announcing the surrender of Kammah L. Pae, a suspect for the said bombing, together with Albaji Kisae Gadjali @ Awag, Rajan Bakil Gadjali @ Radjan, Kaisar Bakil Gadjali @ Isal, and Salit Alih @ Papong.

He also said that mastermind Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Makrim j Habbisi @ Makrim, Barak Ingug @ Barak Abdulgani, Usman aka Ubin, a certain alias Arab Puti, and nine John Does are still at-large. 

Member of the group, Ommal Yusop was killed in an earlier follow-up operation in Patikul.

Below is the timeline according to General Albayalde:

Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Mt Carmel has established the sequence of events leading to the January 27 bomb attack, beginning on January 8, 2019 when a certain Muksin and Usman attempted to assemble an IED in Barangay Latih, Patikul, Sulu, but later abandoned the effort. Four days later, Sawdjaan met Usman and Barak in Bastiong, Patikul and gave them funds for the bombing mission.

On January 21, 2019, an unidentified Asian couple believed to be holed in Lampinigan Island for a few days sailed to Jolo on January 24 by pump boat.

Upon arrival in Jolo, the couple boarded a tricycle to Caltex Tiam at 7:10pm. At 7:30pm the couple were met by suspects Papong, Awag and 
Radjan at Caltex Tiam and all of them boarded Awag’s jeepney along with five minor boys who later disembarked along the way.

Upon reaching Usaw in Barangay Langhub, Patikul near the house of Usman, the group was joined by Kamah, Barak, Makrim and Usman and later proceeded Sitio Bastiong, Brgy Langub, Patikul, Sulu.

The couple alighted at Bastiong and walked towards the forested area escorted by Kamah and Barak where they met Sawadjaan to further plan the bombing. Also present during the planning were Barak, Kammah, Awag, Usman, Makrim, Isal, Radjan and Papong.

At 5:00pm on January 26, the couple, each toting black trolley bags were escorted to barangay Latih, Patikul town by Usman, Barak and nine other unidentified armed men where the couple boarded Awag’s jeepney to Jolo. Upon reaching Jolo at 5:10pm, the couple disembarked infront of Suleco Bldg to an undisclosed location within Jolo.

At 8:28 am the following morning, it is believed that the Indonesian woman detonated the 1st IED inside the Jolo cathedral while the man detonated the 2nd IED at the church entrance seconds later.

From fragments and components recovered at the scene, forensic technicians reconstructed the two detonated IED made from common GI pipes that served as casing that contained possibly ammonium nitrate-fuel oil (anfo) compound as primary explosive charge and possibly boosted by secondary high explosives possibly PETN, TNT or RDX (subject to further laboratory analysis) –that characterized the shattering effect of the explosions.

This particular type of IED, by design, is identified with the Abu Sayyaf group as nine similar IEDs have been involved in at least five recent incidents in Basilan and Sulu in 2016 and 2017.

One incident in Sulu on March 12, 2017 along Scott Road, Bgy San Raymundo, Jolo, involved an IED similar to the ones detonated in the Mount Carmel Cathedral last week.

Two similar IEDs were also detonated by the Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan city on March 19 and 20, 2017, while four more similar IED were defused by the military in Barangay Magcawa, Al-barca, Basilan on May 20, 2016.

The signature of the Abu Sayyaf group, therefore, is patently present in the IED used in this latest terror attack in Jolo.

The investigation of the Jolo Cathedral explosion is far from over as there are more pieces of evidence that need to be carefully examined to test its consistency with other facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.