Tag Archive: Zamboanga City


photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The number of fatalities in the suspected car bomb explosion in Zamboanga City rose to two while the injured now stand at 52, authorities said Saturday.

This developed as it was learned that all police units in Mindanao had been placed under the highest alert status due to “threats of terrorism,” hours before the blast.

The second fatality was identified as Dennis Valiente, Zamboanga City Police director Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said in a text message.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

Valiente, 33, expired around 8:30 p.m. while undergoing treatment at the Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC), according to an emailed report from the Zamboanga Peninsula regional police.

Ten of the injured, including policeman SPO1 Sanzibal Laha Bajari, remain at the WMMC, Zamboanga City Medical Center, Ciudad Medical Center, Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center, and the Doctors Hospital as of Saturday, according to the report.

Members of the 9th Regional Crime Laboratory Ofice are still trying to determine the type of improvised explosive that went off, Casimiro said.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The military said earlier that Friday’s 3:30 p.m. explosion came from a red Toyota sedan parked beside the Fantasy disco bar in Brgy. Guiwan.

The bar is just in front of the Guiwan bus terminal.

Members of the military’s Task Group Zamboanga (TGZ) and policemen cordoned the area while forensics teams gathered materials to determine the type of improvised explosive device that went off.

Superintendent Ariel Huesca, Zamboanga City Police spokesman, said Friday night that additional policemen from the 9th Regional Public Safety Battalion and TGZ have also been scattered in and around the city to conduct checkpoints.

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

photo from Zamboanga City Police Public Safety Company

The explosion occurred while government troops are conducting an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in neighboring Basilan province.

The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for several bombing incidents in Zamboanga City in the past.

Abu Sayyaf retaliation eyed

A senior police official said Saturday that the bombing in Brgy. Guiwan may have been a retaliation for a foiled attempt to spring Abu Sayyaf members from the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center.

“It’s the foiled jail escape,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Jail guards foiled the plot on January 19, after finding three guns and more than 100 ammunition inside two cells of the ZCRC.

The firearms and ammunition, which were supposed to be used in the escape of 57 Abu Sayyaf inmates, were hidden inside two concrete stoves brought in by a woman, according to a report from the regional police.

Entire Mindanao on full alert

Meanwhile, another police official said Saturday that all police units in Mindanao had been placed under the highest alert status before the explosion in Zamboanga City.

“All of Mindanao is in full alert… It took effect Friday morning,” Northern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said in a text message.

National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina ordered the raising of the alert status, Cruz said.

Cruz, in a statement emailed Friday night, said he directed all police units in his region to observe the status in light of “threats of terrorism” and the IED explosion in Zamboanga.

Full alert, the highest among three police alert statuses, means that all policemen in affected units should be available for duty.

The implementation of full alert in Northern Mindanao comes with “target-hardening” measures, 24/7 checkpoints, deployment of EOD and K-9 units at bus terminals, maximized police visibility in areas of convergence, and border patrols, Cruz said.

“Surprise random checkpoints are also implemented,” he said.

Northern Mindanao is connected to the Zamboanga Peninsula in the west by Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

The region’s two highly urbanized cities – Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – experienced bombings by the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants in recent years.

“While the PNP enourages vigilance, the public is advised not to panic… Community members are encouraged to report suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest police station,” Cruz said in his statement. (John Roson)

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(Update 10 p.m.) A man was killed while 48 other people were injured when an improvised bomb exploded beside a disco bar in Zamboanga City Friday afternoon, authorities said.

“One died while forty-five persons were wounded in the IED (improvised explosive device) explosion,” Zamboanga City police spokesman Superintendent Ariel Huesca said in a text message Friday night.

Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that the number of injured later rose to 48, as per the city government’s tally.

The victims were brought to the Western Mindanao Medical Center, Zamboanga City Medical Center, Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital and Doctors Hospital, Huesca said.

Killed was Reynaldo Tan, while the injured include a person who is “critically wounded” and a policeman, city police information officer SPO2 Alex Mabalot said by phone.

‘Blast came from car’

The blast came from a car parked beside the Fantasy Disco Pub in Brgy. Guiwan, Muyuela said, citing information from the Task Group Zamboanga (TGZ).

The explosive was “encased” in a red Toyota sedan (WOH-608) owned by one Ralph Lakibul, a resident of Brgy. Canelar, according to a separate military report.

“Hindi totally nawasak ‘yung kotse, mare-recognize mo pa ‘yung porma niya na kotse, pero nakataas na ‘yung hood,” Mabalot said.

The site of the 3:30 p.m. explosion is located just across the street in front of the Guiwan Bus Terminal, he added.

Security tightened

Members of the TGZ and policemen have cordoned the area, Muyuela said.

Post-blast investigation was still ongoing Friday night “to determine the signature/type of IED used by the perpetrators,” Huesca said.

“Undetermined pa kung ano ang sumabog, maraming version, we are still waiting for the EOD (explosives and ordnance disposal unit) to report,” Mabalot said.

Additional policemen from the 9th Regional Public Safety Battalion and TGZ have also been scattered in and around the city to conduct checkpoints, Huesca said.

The explosion occurred while security forces are conducting an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in neighboring Basilan province.

The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for several bombing incidents in Zamboanga City in the past.

Northern Mindanao alerted

Meanwhile, policemen in the neighboring region of Northern Mindanao were placed under full alert – the highest among three alert statuses – after the explosion in Zamboanga City.

All police units were told to observe the status in light of the IED explosion and “threats of terrorism,” regional police director Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz said in a statement.

The full alert status comes with “target-hardening” measures, 24/7 checkpoints, deployment of EOD and K-9 units at bus terminals, maximized police visibility in areas of convergence, and border patrols, he said.

Northern Mindanao is connected to the Zamboanga Peninsula in the west by Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

The region’s two highly urbanized cities – Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – already experienced bombings by the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants in recent years.

“While the PNP enourages vigilance, the public is advised not to panic… Community members are encouraged to report suspicious individuals and activities to the nearest police station,” Cruz said. (John Roson)

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The Armed Forces plans to step up security in the sea border with Malaysia through a new base being built in Zamboanga City.

“We need to secure our borders with Malaysia,” AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang told reporters in a visit to the city over the weekend.

Catapang, who made his first visit to Zamboanga City as military chief, said the plan is particularly aimed at preventing transnational crimes.

“Global na ‘yung threats eh, global trafficking, global smuggling, and there is this problem of our fellow Filipinos being questioned, deported,” he said.

The maritime border with Malaysia is also notorious for kidnappings.

To address these, the base being built in Brgy. Rio Hondo will host some of the Navy’s ships and newly-acquired helicopters, Catapang said.

The base will also have a marina and host personnel from other security agencies like the police, he said.

“If you enter Zamboanga, you will have to pass through that forward operating base para ma-check kung saan ka ba galing, then we can patrol, and kung malalaki ‘yung bangkang ipapasok, we can challenge them,” Catapang said.

The facility is being built on a half-hectare plot inside “ground zero,” a term coined for the area destroyed by last September’s deadly attack by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

It is expected to be finished early next year.

Aside from boosting territorial defense, the military wants the base to serve as an assurance to residents that the MNLF attack – popularly known as the Zamboanga Seige – will not happen again.

“Up to now the apprehension is there, but if they (residents) see that we are putting up the units, the base, we are making sure that it will never happen again,” Catapang said.

“If that assurance needs the deployment of more troops, the physical presence of troops, we are going to do that,” he added. (John Roson)

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The United States military has started downsizing its anti-terror task force in Mindanao and only 30 troops will remain, possibly by next year, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

“Hindi total pullout. May 30 personnel na maiiwan… by May 2015, subject to change,” the defense chief said in an interview via text message.

Gazmin was referring to the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which is based in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City, also home of the AFP Western Mindanao Command.

According to Gazmin, the JSOTF-P has already reduced its personnel from 500 and now only has 200 members.

“‘Yung reason [for the downsizing] is because hindi naman talaga sila permanente,” the defense chief told reporters, adding that American troops greatly helped improve security in Mindanao.

“Nakita naman na sunud-sunod ‘yung huli natin sa mga Abu Sayyaf… malaki ang improvement,” he said.

Kurt Hoyer, U.S. Embassy spokesman, said the JSOTF-P’s success led American and Filipino security officials “to begin working on a transition plan where the JSOTF-P will no longer exist as a task force.”

He, however, said many of the JSOTF-P’s capabilities will remain under an “augmentation team” of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The U.S. started deploying JSOTF-P troops to Mindanao on January 28, 2002, a year after the deadly Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by the al Qaeda terror network in New York City and Washington D.C.

The deployments were in support of “efforts to counter the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah – terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda,” according to a U.S. Embassy fact sheet. (John Roson)

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(Updated 8 p.m.) Three people were killed when a suspected improvised explosive device (IED) went off at a bus depot in Zamboanga City late Friday afternoon, police said.

The explosion occurred at the Biel Transit bus depot in Brgy. Labuan around 5:55 pm, SPO2 Alex Mabalot, city police spokesman, said in a text message.

The blast caused a bus to burst into flames, he said.

Three persons died in the blast, Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, Zamboanga Peninsula regional police spokesman, said.

Killed were bus conductor Meliton Orquijo and bus washers Hudson Guinilac and Allison Saavedra, Huesca said.

A certain Bello Domingo, 62, was injured in the blast, which also destroyed a Biel Transit bus (JAW-651), the regional police spokesman said.

Police have yet to determine if the blast is connected to the ongoing clashes between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front members in the city. (John Roson)

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Twenty-two people have been killed while almost 30,000 fled their homes due to clashes between state forces and Moro gunmen in Zamboanga City, authorities said Friday, as fighting raged for the fifth day.

The number of evacuees rose to 5,667 families or 29,557 persons after the city government implemented a forced evacuation in some areas, Adriano Fuego, Office of Civil Defense-9 director, said.

The city government, in a resolution, ordered evacuations in Brgys. Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon, Mampang, and “other affected barangays” on Thursday.

Fighting has already affected seven areas – Brgys. Zone 4 Poblacion, Mampang, Talon-talon, Kasanyangan, Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Mariki, and Sta. Barbara – as of Friday afternoon, Fuego said by phone.

“The evacuees from these areas are staying in 17 evacuation centers… (kailangan nila ng) mga gamot and hygienic materials but we already requested for that. Hindi problema ang food dahil maraming galing sa city government. Ang problema lang talaga ay ‘yung influx ng evacuees,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the number of fatalities has already reached 22 while that of the injured stood at 52.

The fatalities comprise two soldiers, three policemen, two civilians, and 15 followers of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, Zagala, who is in the city, said in a text message to reporters in Manila.

Injured were 28 soldiers, six policemen, and 18 civilians, he said.

Nineteen MNLF members are now in state custody after being arrested, injured in clashes, or surrendering, Zagala said.

The number of casualties does not yet include people injured in clashes that happened in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo in the afternoon, just hours after President Benigno Aquino III visited the city.

Aquino, in a televised press conference, said he will use the state’s “full force” to protect civilians from more attacks by the gunmen.

Fires hit homes and establishments in Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Mariki, and Rio Hondo as MNLF troops fired mortar rounds and grenade launchers against advancing government troops, television footages showed.

Soldiers, backed by tanks, marched and took fighting positions on the streets.

Eleven Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers were injured when a mortar round exploded in the afternoon, the organization said in its Twitter account.

Before the President arrived, MNLF members on 6 a.m. freed Fr. Michael Ufana, a Catholic priest who is among the more than 100 hostages held by rebels, police confirmed.

Ustadz Habier Malik, an MNLF commander, in a radio interview, said they freed Ufana to help facilitate negotiations with the government. (John Roson)

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Seven soldiers were injured as government troops clashed anew with Moro gunmen in Lamitan City, Basilan, on Friday, authorities said.

About 100 members of the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) carried out an attack on a building near the city’s port 9:55 a.m., Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, said.

Members of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion and Scout Rangers who were deployed to the area due to a previous clash on Thursday engaged the attacking gunmen, he said.

“Nagsimula ang bakbakan and then we were subjected by the enemy to mortar fires, but we were able to repulse their onslaught,” Galvez said.

“Ang palagay ko ang target talaga nila (gunmen) is makapasok dun sa sentro ng Lamitan,” he said.

Galvez expressed belief that the attack is related to the ongoing “standoff” between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) members in Zamboanga City, just a boat ride away.

“Most probably it is related sa Zambo issue saka alam natin na ang Abu Sayyaf gusto nyang magkaroon ng leverage to gain support from the BIFF and the MNLF para maganda ang broad base niya for another recruitment,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces public affairs chief, said the clash lasted for two hours before the gunmen fled.

“The gunmen failed to overwhelm a ARMM-DPWH satellite building,” he said.

A military helicopter landed at the nearby Claret High School’s open ground to fetch the wounded soldiers.

Galvez said clashes on Thursday and Friday prompted the Lamitan City government to order evacuations.

Thursday’s clash in Brgy. Colonia left a militiaman and three Moro gunmen killed, and 12 other persons injured, according to the military.

As of Friday morning, at least 120 families or 2,000 persons have already evacuated, Ramon Santos, Office of Civil Defense-ARMM director, said.

The number of evacuees were still rising as of Friday afternoon, Santos said in a text message.

The evacuees came from Brgys. Bulanting, Campo Uno, Colonia, Cabobo, and Balobo, Senior Supt. Mario Dapilloza, Basilan provincial police director, said.

The evacuees, mostly women and children, are staying at the Datu Dizal evacuation center while other residents are still staying in their homes, he said.

Dapilloza shared Galvez’s view that the attacks are related to the standoff in Zamboanga City.

“This is a diversionary tactic ng Abu Sayyaf at lost command ng MNLF para ‘yung attention ay ma-focus naman dito, para magkaroon ng division ‘yung operating units sa ground sa Zamboanga,” he said.

Dapilloza said security has been tightened in Basilan since the standoff started.

“In place na ang security since mangyari ‘yung sa Zamboanga dahil we received intelligence reports na isusunod ang Lamitan… parang sa Zamboanga, parang balak nilang pasukin din,” he said.

Dapilloza said more policemen and soldiers have been sent to Maluso, another coastal town on the opposite site of the island-province. (John Roson)

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An agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) died in a shootout with policemen in Zamboanga City early Saturday, police said.

Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police director, identified the fatality as Joel Sacro, resident of Brgy. Putik, and a PDEA agent assigned in Tawi-Tawi.

The “shootout” occurred around 7:30 a.m. in an apartment along Saavedra extension, Brgy. Sta. Maria.

Elements of the city’s Police Station 7 went to the area after a resident complained that Sacro indiscriminately fired his gun, De Ocampo told Bandera in a text message.

“While approaching the apartment, the suspect fired his firearm, prompting the responding policemen to fire back, causing his untimely death,” De Ocampo said.

Members of the PNP Scene of the Crime Operatives later arrived at the scene and recovered two caliber-.45 pistols and a caliber-5.56 M16A2 rifle from the slain suspect, he said. (John Roson)

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The US government has warned its citizens against staying or traveling to the Zamboanga Peninsula amid what it calls a kidnap threat by terrorists against foreign nationals.

“A credible threat of a terrorist kidnapping-for-ransom plot against foreigners has been identified in the Zamboanga area,” the US embassy said in an advisory issued Wednesday.

The embassy advised all American citizens residing in or planning to travel to Zamboanga to “re-evaluate their personal safety situation and consider postponing travel” to the area.

“Any US government personnel already in Zamboanga have been directed to relocate to a secure area,” the embassy said.

“US government employees planning to travel to Zamboanga have been directed to defer their travel at this time,” it added.

The embassy’s warning came two days after police and military personnel arrested a “lawless element” tagged in the abduction of Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, at a mall in Zamboanga City.

Putot Jakaria was arrested Monday on warrants for illegal detention with robbery and kidnapping with serious illegal detention, Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police director, said.

Jakaria is “allegedly” involved in the abduction of Bossi, the police official said.

Bossi was abducted on June 10, 2007 in Zamboanga Sibugay and freed July 19 the same year. He died in Milan, Italy in Sept. 2012 at the age of 62 due to lung cancer.

Maj. Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces’ public affairs office, said the military respects the US Embassy’s issuance of a travel advisory.

“The AFP deems it appropriate for any country to protect and at all times consider the safety and well-being of their people in their own country or abroad, as we likewise do here in the Philippines,” Zagala said.

He said the military will continue to monitor the security situation in Mindanao to protect Filipinos and foreign citizens.

“We are vigilant and will continue to monitor the security situation in the country, particularly in Mindanao. Our intelligence gathering and network sharing with other law-enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP, are in place to prevent any untoward incident,” Zagala said. (John Roson)

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Armed men abducted a businessman at his eatery near the shore of Zamboanga City on Friday night, police said.

Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, officer-in-charge of the Zamboanga City Police, identified the victim as Edgar Favella, 50, owner of a “carinderia” along the highway near the shore of Brgy. Maasin.

Favella is also engaged in logistics and transport services, owning some hauling trucks, a source said.

Five men, of whom two were carrying short firearms, seized Favella in front of his eatery around 6:45 p.m. and forced him into a pumpboat, De Ocampo said in a phone interview.

Favella’s son Sandy saw the commotion and tried to fight off the abductors, but withdrew when one pointed a gun at him, De Ocampo said.

Tutulungan sana niya ‘yung tatay niya dahil nakita niya dun sa labas, eh nung tinutukan na siya ng baril din, tumakbo na siya sa loob nung karinderya,” the police official said.

Parang mga bagito (ang mga abductor)… kasi nakipagsuntukan pa,” De Ocampo noted.

Three of the abductors took Favella with them on the pumpboat while the other two escaped on a motorcycle, he said.

Members of the local police, Navy, PNP Special Action Force, and Maritime Group scoured the shores and waters of Brgy. Maasin until Saturday morning, but found no sign of the abductors.

De Ocampo said there is a possibility that the abductors took Favella to Basilan so he alerted authorities there about the abduction.

Maasin, part of Zamboanga City’s 136-kilometer shoreline, lies in the east coast facing Basilan, he noted.

Intelligence operatives have also been ordered to check the coast thoroughly, De Ocampo added. (John Roson)

– end –