By Nonoy Lacson
ZAMBOANGA CITY – An army soldier, five militiamen and four civilians were killed when a van loaded with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded infront of a Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment in SitioMagwati, Barangay Maganda, LamitanCity in Basilan at about 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Lamitan City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigaysaid the explosion was so powerful it blasted into pieces the van carrying the IEDs and its driver, reportedly a foreigner – the 11th casualty in the explosion.
Furigay said a wife of a CAFGU standing about 60 meters away was killed by the blast.
The van reportedly came from MohAdjul town in Basilan province, a haven of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province, Furigay said.
Initial investigation showed that the white van stopped in front of the CAFGU detachment reportedly after experiencing engine trouble and the driver reportedly asked help from the militiamen on duty.
However, in the process of pushing the van to help restart the engine, one of the militiamen reportedly noticed gallons and wire inside the van prompted him to ask help and report his discovery to the nearest Scout Ranger camp which was a kilometer away from the CAFGU detachment.
A police spot report obtained by Manila Bulletin showed that while talking to the driver while waiting for help to arrive they noticed he had difficulty speaking in Filipino or any local dialect.
However, upon seeing the approaching army vehicle bearing the 9th Scout Ranger Company, led by Lt. Rodriguez, the driver reportedly detonated the IED due to panic resulting in the death of the victims. Among the wounded were five Scout Rangers, a militiaman, and civilians. They were immediately taken to Camp Navarro Gen. Hospital in this city for treatment of shrapnel wounds.
Furigay said soldiers in the city already received a tipped that a van carrying explosive will be passing through the village enroute to
Lamitan City, placing members of the police and military authorities on full alert the past several days.
Palace assails attack
Malacañang has strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Basilan and pledged to bring the culprits to justice.
For his part, AFP-WestMinCom Commander Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega vowed to exhaust all available resources under his disposal to identify the perpetrators in the soonest possible time so that the people of Basilan will have the peace that they truly deserve.
Zamboanga City 1st District Rep Celso Lobregat called on the police and military operatives here to stay alert and vigilant amidst the present volatile peace and order condition of the region.
“We cannot afford to become collateral damage of the acts of terror being perpetrated by lawless elements in the nearby provinces, all of us must be extra vigilant to include the civilian populace,” Lobregat said.
(With reports from Genalyn Kabiling, Francis Wakefield, and Jinky Lou Tabor)