TACLOBAN CITY- The bombings incident that hit the town of Hilongos that injured 32 people, 10 of them were children, were carried out by the Maute Group, a radical terrorist group based in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao.
This was disclosed by Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, regional police director, who said that the conclusion was reached based on the findings of bomb experts that examined the fragments used by the suspects.
Members of the Philippine Bomb Data Center conducted their examination on the fragments of 60 mm and 81 mm mortar rounds used by the suspects in carrying out their acts.
“Per intelligence information we gathered, the main suspect is a member of the Maute Group but he was not alone when they planned and executed the bombings. They were three of them,” Beltejar told Leyte Samar Daily Express in an interview.
“They were sighted few days before the bombings and hours before the bombings. We are exploring some witnesses, yun nalang ang kulang natin,” the regional police director added.
The December 28 explosions incident occurred at the town’s Rizal Park while about 1,000 people were watching an amateur boxing match.
The first improvised explosive device exploded at the water tank at 9:01 pm and a minute later, another explosion was heard near the stage.
Beltejar said that the improvised bombs used by the suspects in the Hilongos incident were similar with the one used in Davao City on September 2,2016 that killed 14 people and injured 70 others as well as those found in a trash bin near the US Embassy in Manila on November 27,2016.
Authorities have not named the suspects but said they know their location.
Beltejar told Express that based on their intelligence report, some drug syndicates in the area are financing the Maute Group to retaliate.
The Hilongos incident happened after the October 22, 2016 arrest of Raidah Ampaso Sarip, a native of Marawi City but lived in the said town.
She is known to be engaging in the illegal drugs activity in Hilongos and nearby areas. Sarip is now detained at the Leyte subprovincial jail in Baybay City.
“It is a way for Maute (Group) to show that they are a force to reckon with to get the nod of ISIS for affiliation and to get funding,” Beltejar said.
Beltejar was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that is leading in the terroristic activities in various parts of the world.
Beltejar said that their investigation continues until those responsible would be arrested and charged.
Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, during his Dec.30 visit to Hilongos, vowed to arrest and charge those responsible.
The incident, while declared as isolated, resulted for Beltejar to issue an order to all provincial, city and municipal police stations to undertake extra security measures to ensure that no similar incident would take place in the region.