By Martin A. Sadongdong
If not for the gallantry of other members of the Philippine Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT), there would have been more casualties in the twin explosions that hit their headquarters in Indanan, Sulu last week.
The June 28 explosion, which was carried out by two suspected suicide bombers, left eight casualties including three soldiers and three civilians, according to the military.
But General Benjamin Madrigal, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief, said the suspects were “clearly” aiming for more kills, if the actions of the second suspect were to be observed.
Accordingly, the first bomb went off just as soldiers manning the gate of the camp were inspecting the first suspect. It turns out that the IED was worn by the suspect.
The first suspect was identified by the Western Mindanao Command as Norman Lasuca, a 23-year-old Filipino who is said to be a member of the terror Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) under the command of Hatib Hakan Sawadjaan.
“Pagsabog ng bomba sa gate, may tumakbo ngayong papasok na naka-itim, maliit lang daw. Hindi malaman kung bata o ano tapos naka-bonnet. Nagpilit na pumasok pero na-neutralize siya, tinamaan (After the [first] bomb exploded at the gate, someone ran inside the camp, he was wearing a black shirt, a short man. They weren’t sure if he was a young man since he was wearing a bonnet. He barged in but was neutralized, he was hit),” Madrigal narrated.
“Ang intent ng bata, pumasok sa barracks (The intention of the kid is to enter the barracks),” he added.
However, seeing the bonnet-wearing suspect running, several Army soldiers fired at him, Madrigal said.
But the suspect did not die on bullet wounds because the moment his body hit the ground, the bomb he was wearing also went off and tore his body into pieces, the official added.
It would have been disastrous if the second bomber succeeded in getting into the soldiers’ barracks since a ceremony was being held during the attack.
The attack happened on the day of the turnover of command for Major General Cirilito Sobejana, the newly-designated commander of the WestMinCom.
It was Sobejana who identified the first suspect and it was also him who raised the possibility that the second suspect was the son of a Moroccan national who carried out another suspected suicide bombing in Lamitan City, Basilan in July 2018.
As for Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, he said there was no conclusive evidence yet to confirm the identity of the suspect.
He said a DNA test was already conducted on a pair of feet — the only body parts recovered at the blast site which is believed to be from the second suspect.
Meanwhile, Arevalo said they have already sent the remaining force of the Army 1st Brigade Combat Team to Sulu to augment the force in the area and help their comrades.
“The remaining one-third of the 1st BCT of Army is arriving. The 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team is in Sulu to add on to the forces that we have for us to finish this problem on Abu Sayyaf once and for all,” he said.