Hilongos bombing incidents

PALO, Leyte- A 26-year old Muslim convert was among the four suspects behind the bombing incidents in Hilongos, Leyte on December 28,2016 and believed to be members of the terrorist Maute Group.
This was disclosed by Chief Supt. Elmer Beltajar, regional police director, who said that multiple frustrated murder was filed against the four suspects.
Charged before the Assistant Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Hilongos on Wednesday (Feb.22) was Jake Anthony Macuto, who was also known of his Muslim name as Yusuf, and three “John Does.”
The December 28,2016 twin bombing incidents in Hilongos resulted to the wounding of 32 people, 10 of them were children.
Macuto was identified through their “extensive police and intelligence work” with the help of the witnesses, Beltejar said during a press conference Thursday (Feb.23) at their regional headquarters this town.
Macuto, 26, was said to have resided in Barangay Concepcion of said town that was shaken on the night of Dec.28 when two improvised explosive devices (IODs) exploded at the Rizal Park packed with more than 1,000 people who were watching an amateur boxing fight as the town was celebrating its annual fiesta.
Macuto and his still unidentified cohorts are still at large.
He was also known to have lived in Cavite and in Lanao del Sur where he could have possibly been recruited to the Maute Group, tagged as the terrorist group which has a link with the Isis Group.
Based on what they have gathered, Macuto was the one who planted the device of an 81 mm mortar near the stage, the other one was located beneath a water tank.
The same kind of explosives was found by the authorities during the foiled US Embassy bombing on November 28.
The other bombs were a 60 mm rounds mortar.
“He was a Muslim covert who could be on a test mission,” Beltejar said citing possible reason for the incident.
Hilongos, a fourth class town 146 kms away from this city, has a Muslim community residing Brgy. Concepcion who mostly worked as traders.
Supt. Allan Cuevillas, who was the head of the special task group created to solve the incident, said that some of the local Muslims also helped them identify Macuto.
Macuto was said to have converted into Muslim through the influence of his mother who worked in the Middle East.
He was said to have conducted some preaching and recruitment activities in the region, notably in Eastern Samar, back in 2015, Cuevillas said.
“But we can assure you that there is no cell of the Maute Group in the region,” he said.
But Beltejar said that they are monitoring Muslim converts across the region as they are the most prone to be recruited to a terrorist group like the Maute Group.
“The Muslim converts are the ones who are being tap by the Maute Group because they are the ones who are more aggressive,” he said.
The police official added that the new recruits are being paid in exchange of their involvement to the terrorist group, dismissing though that local Muslims or what he described as “natural” Muslims are not inclined to join the group.
Police decline to provide more information pending issuance of warrant and the arrest of the four suspects.

By: Joey A. Gabieta/VICKY  C. ARNAIZ