Abu Sayyaf extortion angle eyed in Basilan blast

By Priam Nepomuceno

August 1, 2018, 3:09 pm

MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is looking into reports that a failed extortion attempt triggered the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to carry out the botched improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Lamitan City, Basilan Tuesday.

"We have persistent reports that point to the Abu Sayyaf as the group responsible to the IED explosion in Lamitan City, Basilan," AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said Wednesday.

Arevalo said the attack stemmed from the refusal of the Lamitan City government to give in to the terrorist group's PHP50,000 extortion demand.

"By committing this dastardly and cowardly act, the ASG wanted to reverse the decline in their manpower and firearms; to entice fresh recruits; to portray strength as a force capable of terrorist attack; and to draw foreign funding," the AFP spokesperson stressed.

Arevalo earlier said the attack was masterminded by ASG leader Furuji Indama in response to the growing number of his members surrendering to government troops.

"But the vigilance, heroism, and selfless sacrifice of our troops prevented them from bringing in IEDs in the heart of Lamitan City on the culmination day of the City Nutrition Month," he added.

The explosion took place 5:50 a.m. near Magwakit Detachment in Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City. Initial reports indicated that troops in the area intercepted a white van containing IEDs.

Inspection were ongoing when the vehicle exploded killing one soldier, five CAFGUs and four civilians, including the driver who was believed to be the suspect. Also wounded were one CAFGU and six members of the 9th Scout Ranger Company. (PNA)