An improvised explosive, apparently made by Jemaah Islamiyah-linked Basit Usman, went off near the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) campus in Kabacan, North Cotabato, Tuesday night but no one was reported injured, a police official said.

Two other bombs, made of similar devices, were found Wednesday morning in Kabacan and in the neighboring province of Sultan Kudarat, prompting authorities to beef up security in the region.

Director Felicisimo Khu, chief of the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Western Mindanao, said the explosion occurred around 8 p.m. along USM Ave., some 200 meters away from the USM campus’ main gate.

“No injury was reported but some houses incurred minor damages,” Khu said in a text message.

Initial results of the post-blast investigation showed that the explosive was fashioned from two 81-millimeter mortar ammunition.

“Explosions and recoveries of similar types of IEDs in recent (incidents) indicate that this bomb signature belongs to Basit Usman,” Khu said.

The police official, however, said investigators have yet to determine identity and motive of the one who planted the IED.

The US State Department is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information that would lead to the arrest of Usman, a Filipino bomb-making expert with links to the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Meanwhile, another improvised explosive was found around 5 a.m. yesterday near the Raymund’s Bakery along the National Highway in Brgy. Poblacion and was safely defused.

The bomb, also composed of two 81-mm mortar rounds, electric blasting caps, a fuse assembly, relay circuits, batteries, and a cellphone, was placed in a bag that a street-sweeper found along the road, Khu said.

“This twin 81-mm IED is very much similar to the one that exploded last night,” he said, adding there are intelligence reports that the special operations group (SOG) which Usman is being linked to might be on the move again.

“These two incidents (explosion and recovery of bombs) validate the information that the LMG-SOG will launch bombing operations in Carmen, Midsayap, Kidapawan City, and Kabacan,” Khu said.

LMG, in police and military parlance, refers to “lawless MILF group” or suspected members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who are into criminal activities.

Khu said he has already directed the North Cotabato Provincial Police to further enhance “pro-active measures” to prevent the reported bomb plot.

Around 10:15 a.m., another IED was found and disrupted in Isulan town of neighboring Sultan Kudarat province.

The third bomb, made of two 60-millimeter mortar ammunition, was found inside a baggage abandoned near the Flying V gas station along the National Highway in Brgy. Poblacion, Col. Leopoldo Galon, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said. (John Roson)

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