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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Police tracking 4 persons of interest in Marawi bombing

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Police said they now have four persons of interest in the deadly bomb attack in Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City that killed four people and injured dozens more during a Mass service on Sunday, even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines ruled out the need for martial law.

In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardo said they had added two possible lookouts to their persons of interest.

She said investigators have already obtained CCTV footage outside the MSU and are reviewing these to track back the movements of the persons of interest.

Fajardo said the two persons of interest who were initially identified had criminal records and could be affiliated with a local terrorist group operating in Mindanao.

ABS-CBN reported the improvised explosive device used in the bomb attack was contained in a black tote bag.

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Citing a well-placed source, the news outlet said the bomb was composed of a 60mm mortar and a rocket-propelled grenade.

The AFP said it is validating the claims of the Islamic State (IS) and Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group that they were responsible for the attack.

At the same time, the assistant director general of the National Security Council, Jonathan Malaya, said, “I think that kind of arrangement has to end because of the threat of the violent extremism that we have witnessed over the weekend,” Malaya said.

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner said there is no need to declare martial law because security forces are on top of the situation and the local terrorist group suspected to be behind the bombing no longer has the capacity to execute another massive attack.

Brawner also said that more security measures should have been implemented at MSU.

“There should have been more security measures in place like the inspection of bags. We should be doing that,” Brawner said when asked if there was a failure of security in the incident during the interview.

“Let’s not really be complacent because anything can happen,” he added.

The terrorists were able to bring the bomb inside the Dimaporo Gymnasium in MSU, Brawner said, because bags were not inspected upon entry at the university gates.

The AFP chief said the MSU had its own security personnel, and the military and police needed permission to enter the campus.

For Brawner, there was no failure of intelligence on the part of the military because it had warned security forces, local government forces, and even civilians to be vigilant against such threats.

He said that the military received intelligence information that there could be a possible retaliatory attack from the Daulah Islamiyah extremist group, whose members were killed in a military operation on Friday in Maguindanao del Sur.

But Brawner said the military did not receive any imminent threat with a specific target.

Malaya, in a televised interview, said the remnants of the Maute group and other violent extremists were behind the MSU bomb attack

Malaya also pointed out that there was no basis to blame the military for the lapses in Marawi bombing because its main focus is on territorial defense.

He said talk of a failure of intelligence was premature.

Also on Tuesday, a legislator proposed a review of the government’s use of intelligence funds in the wake of the MSU bombing.

“I think this is the perfect time for the country to really revisit what are the things that are being done by using these intelligence funds because ultimately this is going to happen again,” Lanao del Sur Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong said in a television interview.

“We have to fortify not only within the area, but we also need to collaborate further and intensify our intelligence,” he added.

Adiong thanked the Tingog party-list group, represented by Reps. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and Jude Acidre, for extending immediate assistance after the terrorist attack.

Tingog–Cotabato offered medical assistance to the survivors of the blast, who were taken to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City and the MSU Infirmary.

The team also held meetings with national and local officials to ascertain how the group could further assist the victims.

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