ZAMBOANGA CITY: Government troops shot dead three suicide bombers, two of them foreigners, at a military roadblock in the southern Filipino province of Sulu, security officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the trio was in a vehicle on their way to the capital town of Jolo when intercepted by soldiers, who put up a roadblock late Tuesday afternoon in the village of Kan Islam in Indanan town after receiving intelligence reports of the planned attacks.
The bombers opened fire on the soldiers and a firefight ensued, killing all the terrorists, according to Army Lt. Col. Gerald Monfort, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force Sulu.
The foreigners, he said, were believed to be the husband and son of another suicide bomber who blew herself up near a military base in Indanan town on September 8.
The other bomber, a Filipino, was an Abu Sayyaf fighter.
“The terrorists, composed of two foreign terrorists and one local ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) member, were about to carry out their suicide bombing mission in Metro Jolo when they were neutralized by AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) during the implementation of a military operation intended to apprehend foreign terrorists in Sulu,” Monfort said.
He said soldiers recovered a pair of explosive belts from the slain bombers, including a fragmentation grenade and an automatic pistol.
“Recovered from the terrorists were one .45-caliber pistol with ammunition, one hand grenade and two vests with explosives, and triggering devices identical to the vest used by the suicide bombers during the two IED (improvised explosive device) attacks in Tanjung in Indanan on June 28 and on September 8 of this year,” Monfort said.
Col. Ignatius Patrimonio, commander of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade, commended the soldiers in the slaying of the bombers.
“The hostile plan of the terrorists in Sulu could have caused tremendous casualties and could have tarnished the image of this country if not immediately acted upon by our soldiers. Hence, I commend them for such patriotic act,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinulan, the task force commander, said security forces were hunting down other terrorists in Sulu and praised soldiers for their “superb planning and careful execution of their task to [attempt to] apprehend” the suicide bombers.
Vinluan said security forces were hunting down other terrorists in Sulu. “The AFP in Sulu will continue to hunt down all the remaining ASG members in Sulu,” he said.
The military has imposed high security alert in the restive region against possible retaliatory attacks by pro-Islamic State terror groups following killing of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a recent United States raid in Syria.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said at least seven foreign terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group were trying to embed in the local existing terror organizations in southern Philippines.
He said the Abu Sayyaf was coddling the terrorists in Basilan and Sulu, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao province.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said in public that IS is the biggest security threat in the country. Authorities have tagged the ASG, BIFF and Maute Group as terrorist groups with alleged links to the ISIS.