July 2009 Mindanao bombings
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|July 2009 Mindanao bombings|
Colour-coded map of the Mindanao archipelago
|Location||Datu Piang, Cotabato, Jolo, and Iligan in Mindanao, Philippines|
|Date||4 July 2009, 5 July 2009, and 7 July 2009 (PST, UTC+8)|
|Moro Islamic Liberation Front;
Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah;
Armed Forces of the Philippines
The July 2009 Mindanao bombings was a series of seemingly unrelated bomb attacks that took place on the 4th, 5th, and 7th of July 2009 in the towns and cities of Datu Piang, Cotabato, Jolo, and Iligan on the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao that killed more than 7 people and injured at least 66.
The Roman Catholic Church, along with Pope Benedict XVI, has condemned the initial attack while a statement from the MILF said that that attack was done by "heartless people" and called for an independent investigation to determine who was responsible. They further said that "there's no religious conflict in the south" and "we're fighting for our right of self-determination". A press secretary to President Macapagal-Arroyo expressed confidence that the bombing would not collapse peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.
The incidents have led several members of the opposition to comment that these attacks may be related to a possible plan by the government to place the country in emergency rule, alluding to the days of Martial Law by the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, while others have commented that they may be in preparation to heighten security amid the State of the Nation Address by President Arroyo which may restrict demonstrations and protest. The government has rejected these claims and says that they are assessing the situation. Security has been increased in Metro Manila, where the capital is located, as well as other areas of the country, particularly in Mindanao. The UN Development Program, meanwhile, announced that it is suspending its operations for refugees in the south a day after the incidents.
Datu Piang and Cotabato
Following a bomb that exploded the night before in the nearby town of Datu Piang, a bomb exploded at approximately 8:50 a.m. in Cotabato City near a lechón food stall across the street from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception during Sunday Mass as a military truck drove by, killing five people and injuring up to 55 more. The dead included at least one member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (according to initial police reports, two soldiers standing guard near the cathedral were killed by the blast), a street food vendor, and a three-year-old boy. Five soldiers were injured in the explosion. A sixth victim, an injured infant, died later in hospital.
According to Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Jonathan Ponce, the bomb consisted of a mortar shell and was detonated remotely by mobile phone. Witnesses reported that the cathedral did not sustain significant damage. Security forces arrested a man suspected of having placed the bomb shortly after the attack. The man was arrested while carrying a second device into the cathedral, according to police.
The rebels are getting desperate and they are no longer choosing their targets. They are now attacking even places of worship.—Col Jonathan Ponce, Philippine Army
However, MILF leader Mohaqher Iqbal denied that the militant group carried out the attack, stating:
There's no religious conflict in the south [of the Philippines]. We're fighting for our right of self-determination.—Mohaqher Iqbal, Moro Islamic Liberation Front
The attack drew condemnation from the Roman Catholic Church, including from Pope Benedict XVI, Philippine government officials, and the MILF. Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotabato, decried the bombing as "not just a crime, [but] a sacrilege" and called for prayer "for the conversion of the bombers". A spokesperson for the MILF, Eid Kabalu, condemned the attack by "heartless people" and called for an independent investigation to determine who was responsible. Cerge Remonde, press secretary to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, expressed confidence that the bombing would not collapse peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.
Jolo and Iligan
Another bomb attack that took place on 7 July 2009 in Jolo on the southern Philippine island of Sulu. An improvised explosive device (IED) which was placed "inside" a motorcycle, according to Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela of the Philippine National Police—detonated in downtown Jolo at 7:55 a.m. outside a hardware store and killed six people. The store's owner was one of the fatalities. Approximately 40 people were injured in the explosion. It exploded about 100 metres (330 ft) from the Mount Carmel Church and, according to Gucela, police discovered two other unexploded devices within a similar radius around the church. Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, a spokesman for the Philippine Navy, reported that most of those wounded in the blast were in critical condition. Arevalo also indicated that, according to initial reports, locals had notified police of a parked motorcycle with wires connected to it, and that the explosion came as police were responding. Public officials in Jolo suspended classes out of fears that additional attacks could follow. The authorities later qualified that there were only two fatalities not six.
Approximately two to three hours after the blast in Jolo, a bomb exploded in Iligan City on Mindanao in a car parked near a pawnshop, injuring between seven and thirteen people (including up to three soldiers), but causing no deaths. The bomb exploded next to a Philippine Army "mini-cruiser"; however, Lt Col Juvymax Uy suggested that the soldiers "were likely not the target of the blast".
The attacks in Jolo and Iligan came two days after a blast in Cotabato City near a Roman Catholic cathedral were blamed on the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but the military "ruled out the possibility" that the bombings were related. Major General Juancho Sabban identified the Abu Sayyaf Group, which is based in Jolo, as being the most likely perpetrators of the attack in Jolo, while noting that Iligan is located in an area "affected" by the MILF. Sabban indicated that investigators are also considering Jemaah Islamiyah as possible culprits.
However, Eid Kabalu, the civil-military affairs chief of the MILF was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying, “We tend to believe former House Speaker Jose de Venecia’s view that this is part of a national grand design leading to a military takeover" of the country due to ongoing apprehensions over ruling party congressmen's continuing efforts to form a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution and extend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's rule. In the interview, Kabalu pointed out the bomb attacks' not being confined to Mindanao as “a very clear sign” backing the “grand design” theory. He assailed the military for pinning the bomb attacks on the MILF.
The government held an emergency meeting immediately after the incidents to assess possible implications while a one million peso reward was offered for anyone that could information that would lead to the arrests of the bombers. On 8 July, the United Nations Development Program announced that it had to halt its feeding program to the island's estimated 340,000–578,000 refugees displaced due to recent fighting between the government and rebel forces. Security, meanwhile, was increased all over the archipelago, particularly in Metro Manila and its financial center, Makati.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles has stated that "regardless of creed or religion and political inclinations, we all must act to end these series of criminal acts". On the other hand, Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said that the only one benefiting from the situation is the President's administration, further stating that "The lack of conclusive information... reinforces the suspicion that either there is a failure of intelligence or the obfuscation is deliberately orchestrated to divert the public's attention from the... threat of emergency rule". These statements follow the appearance of allegations that the government has the intention of reinstating Martial Law, similar to that of Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.
The bombings, incidentally occur within days of a visit by of CIA chief Leon Panetta, who will be meeting with President Arroyo about the country's security relation with the United States, particularly about the current situation of the U.S. military presence in the south. They also precede the final State of the Nation Address on 27 July by the Philippine president before ending her term which led several opposition senators to comment that these attacks may be a ploy to heighten security in the capital, restricting possible protests and demonstrations against her.
- The number of people who died in the attack in Cotabato are 6. Only 2 people died in Jolo, even though initial reports stated 6. No one died in Datu Piang and Iligan.
- Reports of the number of people injured in the attack in Cotabato range from "at least 26" to 55, depending on the source, with mid-range figures of 29, "at least 34", and 45.
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