Government forces shot dead two bomb couriers suspected of planning to carry out a bombing mission in the town of M’lang, North Cotabato province before dawn Wednesday.
A team of local policemen and personnel of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion manning a checkpoint in Barangay Sangat, M’lang, flagged down at about 3 a.m. three men on board a motorbike for routine inspection, North Cotabato police spokesperson, Supt. Bernard Tayong, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) here.
However, authorities said the three men refused to stop and sped off past the checkpoint, prompting a pursuit that ended in a shootout that killed two of them.
“The one driving the motorbike managed to escape,” Tayong said.
It took more than an hour for lawmen to get closer to the slain suspects as they were carrying a black sling bag that was later found to contain an improvised bomb.
Tayong noted that the bomb was incomplete as it has no triggering mechanism, saying he believed the bombers were to put the triggering device once they leave the bomb in the target area.
Crime scene investigators identified the slain men through personal documents found in their wallets as Patrick Ali Saligan, 30, of Buluan, Maguindanao, and Nholds Saibo Ali, 29, of Datu Paglas, also in Maguindanao.
In a radio interview, M’lang Vice Mayor Lito Piñol said authorities were double-checking the identification documents recovered from the slain suspects.
“I would like to commend our police and the military for their vigilance,” Tayong said referring to authorities manning the Sangat checkpoint.
The discovery of the improvised explosive device (IED) in Barangay Sangat was the fourth bombing attempt in North Cotabato, three of which were in M’lang and the other in Kidapawan City.
On Sunday, an IED was found at 1 p.m. at the roadside in Barangay Poblacion, M’lang, which was later deactivated by police and military bomb experts.
An IED was also found on Monday morning in front of a variety store in Barangay Bagontapay, also in M’lang, by residents who said that two men on a motorbike left the black bag and hurriedly left.
In Kidapawan City, workers of the Gaisano Grand Mall found two grenades at the mall’s main entrance-exit door at about 7 p.m. Monday. Bomb experts safely recovered the explosives.
Supt. Ramel Hojilla, acting Kidapawan City police director, linked the discovery of explosives at the mall to a conflict involving two agencies providing security services for the mall.
“There appears to be a misunderstanding between the two groups over who should take the lead role in securing the mall,” Hojilla said.
On the M’lang bombing attempts, military and police officials believe the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was behind the incidents.
“All the IEDs found and deactivated in M’lang had the signature of the BIFF,” Tayong said.