Wednesday, August 17, 2011

PNP probes Ampatuan link et al in Tacurong blast

MANILA, Philippines – (2nd UPDATE) The Philippine National Police (PNP) is looking into several angles in the car bombing attack that targeted Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

PNP Region 12 Director Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele said an investigation will be conducted to determine if the registered owner of the vehicle, identified as Maureen Ella Macasindil, has links to the Ampatuans.

“Titignan natin if she has a link. Lahat ng anggulo, titignan natin,” Mantele told ANC Tuesday.

“Sa ngayon, wala pa tayong basis. We will have to look into this,” he said.

The PNP said they are convinced, based on the evidence and testimonies, that the car bomb was intended for Mangudadatu, and that it was not of a terrorist attack.

Mantele said the bomb used was a locally-made improvised explosive device from a 105mm-howitzer cannon that can be triggered by a cellphone.

Mantele said this type of explosive is a trademark of Maguindanao warlords.

Meanwhile, Zaldy Ampatuan's lawyer Howard Calleja said the Ampatuans have nothing to do with the bombing, and police should present evidence first before pointing fingers.

Mantele also clarified that they are not pointing fingers at anybody and that anything is possible at this point of the investigation.

Car bomb

Mantele said Macasindil had sold the vehicle used in the attack, a Kia Avella with plate number MDJ 274, to a certain Jay Reyes from Cotabato City, whom authorities are looking into.

Macasindil said the vehicle was turned over to Reyes on August 5.

However, Macasindil said she cannot identify Reyes as it was 2 of her employees who negotiated the sale.

The 2 are being investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI.

Macasindil is currently residing in Maa, Davao City, but was previously a resident of Maguindanao.

Two killed in blast

Police said the Kia sedan exploded hitting a passing black Toyota Fortuner owned by Maguindanao board member Datu Russman Sinsuat Sr. on Monday afternoon.

Sinsuat Sr. died at 12:13 a.m. Tuesday from injuries he sustained in the blast. He was laid to rest at 12 noon on Tuesday.

The incident also killed tricycle driver Rocky Pareña, who was just in the area.

Meanwhile, the son of Sinsuat Sr., who was also aboard the Fortuner, has been transferred for further treatment in a hospital in Davao City.

Russman Sinsuat Jr., was airlifted by an air force helicopter from Tacurong City to the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Davao City at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Sinsuat Jr. was immediately transferred to a waiting ambulance and brought to a hospital in Davao City.

According to his attending physician Dr. Esmael Acob, although his right leg needs to be amputated, Sinsuat Jr. is in stable condition.

“Kaya namin siya tina-transfer dahil para sa safety niya at further treatment,” said Sinsuat Jr.’s attending physician, Dr. Esmael Acob.

Sinsuat Sr.'s Toyota Fortuner was part of the Mangudadatu convoy travelling along Alunan Highway in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat when the bomb exploded.

Sinsuat's son, Russman Jr., Bebot Barang Barang, Mabang Antonio, Noble Abdullah, Richard Sonza, and Robert Formacion, were also injured in the incident.

Tightened security

Authorities said the military in Tacurong City has tightened its security measures following the car bomb attack.

"Checkpoints are being intensified. Our security forces are in place," said Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the Army's 6th Infantry Division said.

Ardo said Army and police personnel had already been deployed to protect Mangudadatu prior to the blast, but noted that the Maguindanao governor is a "very high-profile target."

Intelligence efforts have also been increased to identify who is behind the attack.

"Right now, we have increased our intelligence efforts regarding the bombing incident. Series of checkpoints were established in that area," said Armed Forces spokesman Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez. – With reports from Francis Magbanua, Ron Gagalac, Lora Mae Andong and Michelle Robin, ABS-CBN News

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