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ABU SAYYAF PLOT TO IGNITE SECTARIAN WAR IN MINDANAO UNCOVERED; MILITARY ON ALERT

By FRANCO REGALA and ALFRED GABOT

 

(Photo from ABS-CBN News)

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY (PhlTodayUSA) - The Islamist State-allied terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has come out with a "grand plan" to ignite a sectarian war in Mindanao and the twin bombings of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu was apparently a part of the plot.

 

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde made the revelation as he appealed to all sectors to help foil "such evil plot" by the Abu Sayyaf terrorists even as the government has taken measures to prevent the Abu Sayyaf from succeeding in their “grand plan.” 

 

“Their (Abu Sayyaf) objective is to create chaos and terror, they want Christians to react if they bomb churches and other Christian targets. This is why these terror acts should be stopped and we need all the information we can get from the public,” the PNP chief said.

 

The Abu Sayyaf grand plot came to light in the wake of the terrorist group’s filming of their gunmen while desecrating a Catholic church at the start of the 5-month old Marawi City siege; an incident involving a bomb-laden truck in Lamitan, Basilan last year which killed several militiamen and civilians and lately, the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral which left 23 persons dead and 95 wounded.

 

The PNP has filed multiple counts of murder and frustrated murder charges against five suspected Abu Sayyaf militants linked to the twin suicide bombings of the Jolo Cathedral following their surrender on Feb. 4 to security forces.

 

 Albayalde identified those who surrendered and subsequently charged as  Mukammar L. Pae/Kammah L. Pae alias Kammah; Albaji K. Gadjali alias Apah Albaji/Awag; Radjan B. Gadjali alias Rajan; Kaisar B. Gadjali alias Isal; and Said Alih alias Papong.

 

Albayalde said 14 other suspects remained at large, including the mastermind Sawadjaan, among them were Makrim Habbisi, alias Makrim, Barak Ingug, alias Barak Abdulgani, Usman Aka Ubin, a certain Arab Puti and nine John Does.

 

In a related development, government forces in Central Mindanao are on alert following intelligence reports indicating that foreign jihadists have entered the region.

 

Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) and military led-Joint Task Force Central (JTF Central), cited an intelligence report showing that about 30 to 40 foreign terrorists may have set foot in the provinces under the 6ID's area of jurisdiction.

 

Sobejana made the disclosure during the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting in Buluan, Maguindanao, adding that the foreign terrorists could have merged with local terror groups operating in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. 

 

The 6ID covers the provinces of Maguindanao, part of Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

 

Even as five suspects in the Jolo church bombing have surrendered, former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan Sr. called on authorities not to jump to conclusions and instead dig deeper in their investigation.

 

Tan said the five suspects who surrendered to the police could be mere accomplices.

 

“Let’s wait for the complete investigation because those who surrendered can be only part or accessory of a larger group of suspects,” Tan said.

 

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the Philippine military is conducting search operations for another terrorist who shares the same name as Kammah Pae, the surrendered leader of the Ajang – Ajang group.

 

The Ajang – Ajang group is a faction of the Abu Sayyaf terror group and is suspected to be behind the twin bombings at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo on Jan. 27.

 

Over two dozen soldiers and terrorists have been killed and wounded in fighting the Abu Sayyaf since the deadly Jolo Cathedral bombings, it was learned. Five soldiers have been confirmed dead and nearly two dozen more were injured in clashes in Patikul, Sulu.  

 

 Albayalde said fighting between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao are not new since they became infamous in the 1970s when military-backed Christian “Ilagas” fought the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas.

 

“It has happened before in Mindanao, the fighting between Christians and Muslims. Their battlecry during those days is if you can do this, we can also do that,” he explained.

 

Albayalde said the administration does not want a repeat of those heavy fighting in Southern Philippines during the Marcos presidency.

 

“This is the reason why we need the help of the community in fighting this threat. The local populace will always know who’s the stranger in their area. In case somebody buys something in a store, say vinegar but can’t speak your language, or speaks a language he or she only knows, please report to us immediately,” Albayalde said.

 

Two suspected Indonesian bombers who were believed to have carried out the suspected “suicide bombing” at the Jolo Cathedral are now being hunted by the military and police operatives, he added.

 

The PNP chief said they have already coordinated their investigation into the identities of the suspects with their Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts.

 

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the Indonesian government has expressed willingness to help in identifying the Indonesian suspects.

 

“Identification is in the process but it may take time,” Ano added.

 

Año said that Jolo twin blasts perpetrated by suicide bombers is one of the ways foreign terrorists are educating Filipino Muslim terrorists on how to cause chaos in the country.

 

"That is what they are trying to do. By showing and doing these suicide bombings, they are expecting Filipino Muslim terrorists would follow soon. They underestimate the influence of Filipino culture to our Muslim brothers," he 

 

Three days after the Jolo cathedral bomb blasts, a grenade-throwing incident in a mosque in Zamboanga City last January 30 killed two preachers and wounded four others.

 

 

Albaylde said Sawadjaan assumed the post vacated by ASG chieftain Isnilon Hapilon following his death in the Marawi City attack in 2016.  

 

This developed as the Department of Justice (DOJ) immediately completed its inquest proceedings against the suspects in the Jolo bombings.

 

"The prosecutor has terminated the inquest proceedings and deemed submitted for resolution the case against the five arrested suspects in the Jolo Cathedral bombing," DOJ spokesman Undersecretary Markk Perete said.

 

Seven other identified suspects and several John and Jane Does are still at large.

 

The suspects have been named respondents in the cases for 23 counts of murder, frustrated murder and damage to property filed by the Sulu Police Provincial Office. 

 

Security forces were still pursuing over 100 militants who broke into smaller groups in Sulu’s hinterlands as an offshoot of the bombings.

 

“The five surrendered due to the massive hot pursuit operations by troops from the Patikul Municipal Police Station, 52nd Special Action Company, Sulu Provincial Mobile Force Company, 14th Regional Mobile Force Battalion, CIDG9, RIU9, and 35th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army,” Albayalde said

 

The PNP chief said security forces also destroyed an improvised explosive and other bomb components recovered from Pae’s house in Patikul town.  

 

Kammah admitted to authorities that he was part of the Ajang-Ajang group, a faction of the Abu Sayyaf, but denied that he participated in planning and executing the Jolo blasts.  

 

Patikul is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or IS.

 

Security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Hajan Sawadjaan, believed to be the chief architect in the cathedral bombings, and over a dozen other militants.

 

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