MANILAThe Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has confirmed that veteran Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader, Furuji Indama, was behind the blast that killed 11 people and wounded seven others in Lamitan City, Basilan early Tuesday.
In a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said the attack was in response to the growing number of ASG terrorists voluntarily surrendering to government forces, causing the bandit group to lose ground in Basilan.
"This group of Furuji Indama is swiftly losing ground. That is why they are resorting to these desperate moves in order to disrupt the mass surrender of Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan and in Sulu," Arevalo added.
He said military units in the area were on alert after receiving reports that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) would be deployed to various areas in Basilan.
"Now, as we told you, this vehicle loaded with IEDs is being driven by a lone person. Na-checkpoint natin ito (It went through checkpoint) because we have received earlier reports that say there could be IEDs that could be deployed (to) various areas, specifically in this area of Basilan. That is why our checkpoints in Mindanao have been alerted," Arevalo added.
The explosion took place at 5:50 a.m. near the Magwakit Detachment in Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City.
Reports indicated that troops in the area intercepted a white van containing IEDs.
The vehicle was being inspected when an explosion tore into it, killing one soldier, five members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), and four civilians, including the still unidentified driver who was believed to be the suspect.
Also wounded were one CAFGU and six members of the 9th Scout Ranger Company.
Despite the losses suffered by military personnel, the AFP spokesperson said they have successfully performed their mandate as they had prevented the IEDs from reaching the intended target, which he believed to be downtown Lamitan.
"(AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. commends the vigilance and dedication to duty and the sacrifice of these heroes," Arevalo said.
"And while we commend our troops, we condemn in the highest possible terms this yet another dastardly attempt of terrorists to kill, maim, and injure innocent civilians," he added. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency