Bomb de­fused near US em­bassy in Philip­pines

Kuwait Times - - FROM THE ARABIC PRESS -

Po­lice de­fused a bomb near the US em­bassy in the Philip­pine cap­i­tal yes­ter­day, with mil­i­tants who had de­clared al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State (IS) group likely be­hind the at­tempted ter­ror­ist at­tack, author­i­ties said. A taxi pas­sen­ger dropped the mor­tar bomb with a mo­bile phone det­o­na­tor in a rub­bish bin about 200 me­ters from the em­bassy along one of Manila’s busiest roads, but a street sweeper found it and alerted author­i­ties, po­lice said.

“This is an at­tempted act of ter­ror­ism,” na­tional po­lice chief Ron­ald dela Rosa told re­porters, adding he be­lieved the Maute Is­lamic mil­i­tant group cur­rently fac­ing a mil­i­tary of­fen­sive in the south­ern Philip­pines was the prime sus­pect. “Be­cause of an on­go­ing po­lice/mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion there, (the mil­i­tants) have many ca­su­al­ties. We can the­o­rize that this is a di­ver­sion to loosen our op­er­a­tions.” Po­lice said they det­o­nated the bomb just over an hour af­ter it was dis­cov­ered.

The Maute gang was also blamed for a bomb­ing in Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s home town in the south­ern city of Davao in Septem­ber that killed 15 peo­ple. The mil­i­tary has since Thurs­day been bat­tling dozens of Maute gang mem­bers holed up in an aban­doned gov­ern­ment build­ing in the mainly Mus­lim ru­ral town of Butig on Min­danao is­land, about 800 kilo­me­ters south of Manila. Thir­teen sol­diers have been in­jured in the fight­ing, mil­i­tary spokesman Bri­gadier Gen­eral Resti­tuto Padilla told re­porters.

He said 19 mil­i­tants had been killed, although none of those bod­ies had been re­cov­ered and the death toll could not be ver­i­fied. Fight­ing con­tin­ued yes­ter­day. Padilla sup­ported the po­lice the­ory of who was be­hind yes­ter­day’s at­tempted bomb­ing. “It is pos­si­ble that these groups are do­ing this to help their fel­low ter­ror­ists and di­vert (gov­ern­ment) at­ten­tion,” Padilla said. Mus­lim groups have waged a decades-long armed in­de­pen­dence strug­gle in the south of the mainly Catholic Philip­pines that is be­lieved to have claimed more than 120,000 lives. The main rebel groups are in peace talks with the gov­ern­ment.

But the Maute gang is one of sev­eral to have de­clared al­le­giance to IS and con­tin­ued fight­ing. The Abu Sayyaf, in­fa­mous for kid­nap­pings for ran­soms, is an­other. Lead­ers of the main rebel or­ga­ni­za­tions have re­peat­edly warned that the fail­ure of pre­vi­ous peace ef­forts, in­clud­ing with Duterte’s pre­de­ces­sor, could lead to dis­af­fected youth join­ing more ex­treme groups such as the Maute gang. The Jakarta-based In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Anal­y­sis of Con­flict also said last month that deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion among the Maute gang, the Abu Sayyaf and other pro-IS groups meant more deadly vi­o­lence was “a mat­ter of when, not if”.

The Philip­pine mil­i­tary has staged a se­ries of deadly bat­tles against the Maute gang in its moun­tain­ous and re­mote strongholds around Butig in re­cent months. Eight Maute gang mem­bers were cap­tured in Au­gust, but fel­low mil­i­tants eas­ily broke them out of a lo­cal jail. The Davao bomb­ing prompted Duterte to put the nation un­der a “state of emer­gency” which al­lowed the mil­i­tary to do law en­force­ment with po­lice. His of­fice said se­cu­rity mea­sures would be in­creased fur­ther af­ter the at­tempted bomb­ing at the US em­bassy, par­tic­u­larly at air­ports, sea­ports and other trans­port ter­mi­nals. Most of the Is­lamic mil­i­tant-re­lated vi­o­lence has been lim­ited to the south­ern Philip­pines, and for­eign gov­ern­ments warn their citizens against trav­el­ling there be­cause of the threat of kid­nap­ping or be­ing caught up in con­flicts. How­ever mil­i­tants have also staged at­tacks in Manila, a megac­ity of more than 12 mil­lion peo­ple. The Abu Sayyaf was blamed for the bomb­ing a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that killed 116 peo­ple, in the nation’s dead­li­est ter­ror­ist at­tack. —AFP

MANILA: Pho­tog­ra­phers take pic­tures of an 81mm mor­tar shell which was det­o­nated af­ter it was found in­side a sus­pi­cious pack­age near the US Em­bassy in Manila, Philip­pines yes­ter­day. —AP

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