The Abu Sayyaf on Saturday denied it was behind Friday night’s explosion that killed 14 people and wounded 67 others (official figure as of 6 a.m. Saturday) at the night market on Roxas Ave. here.
But Muammar Askali alias Abu Ramie, the self-styled spokesperson of the Al Harakatul Al Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf’s official name, pointed to an ally as that behind the deadly explosion.
In a phone call to the Inquirer, Askali identified the group behind the blast as Daulat Ul Islamiya.
“They are doing this to sympathize (with) our group and we are sending a message to President Rodrigo Duterte that all the Daulat throughout the country is not afraid of him,” Askali said.
He said the bomb attack was only the start of similar attacks as the military continues to put pressure on his group in Sulu.
“We can hardly call people, but we can still inflict damage to the soldiers,” Askali said, describing how tight their situation in Sulu was.
About 9,000 troops were now in Sulu pursuing the bandit group. Since August 26, 15 soldiers had died and 30 bandits had been killed.
Askali said the bomb attacks would only stop “if Duterte will make our hadith his laws and he will seek conversion to Islam.”
The hadith is described as a collection of traditions containing sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, with accounts of his daily practice. Sunni Muslims use this to emulate the Prophet’s practice.
But Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, the Southern Mindanao police director who now supervises the investigation of the blast, said what they were looking into now was the possible participation of “disgruntled vendors” in the city but they were also considering other possible groups as suspects.
“There were some disgruntled vendors in the awarding of stalls at the night market. This is one of the motives that we are looking into,” he said.
Gaerlan said any group can claim responsibility over the explosion but that is normal.
“They can use it to boost their popularity but as I said, we are still investigating,” he said.
Gaerlan also said the police were still not confirming that what exploded was indeed a bomb.
“We are still collecting more pieces of evidence,” he added.
Chief Insp. Andrea dela Cerna, the Southern Mindanao police spokesperson, said metal fragments had been recovered from dead and wounded victims but it was not clear if what went off was an improvised explosive device.
She said this was being determined by the Special Investigation Task Group formed in the aftermath of the blast.
Gaerlan also said the police have custody now of CCTV footage from several establishments around Roxas Ave. and these were being reviewed.
Gaerlan also declined to comment on reports that at least two suspects were now under police custody.
“The technical aspect of the investigation, we are still not ready to divulge it but we hope we can pursue the suspects,” Gaerlan added.
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