Car bomb kills 11 in southern Philippines

A military outpost was among the structures damaged when an explosion tore through a van in southern Philippines. (AFP)
Updated 31 July 2018

Car bomb kills 11 in southern Philippines

  • One soldier, five militia troops and four civilians were killed
  • The driver of the bomb-rigged van was likewise killed in the blast

MANILA: Eleven people were killed in what could be the first case of suicide bombing by militant groups in the Philippines.

The incident occurred Tuesday, at 5:51 a.m. in the island province of Basilan, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Investigation showed a white van was stopped at a checkpoint being run by the military and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Barangay Colonia, Lamitan City, Basilan. CAFGU is the civilian paramilitary unit of the Army. 

While the government forces were inspecting the van, a huge explosion occurred, instantly killing a soldier, five CAFGU members, and four civilians, including a child.

According to the military, the slain civilians were family members of some of the CAFGU personnel living in the area.

The driver of the bomb-rigged van was likewise killed in the blast, which left a huge crater, with the impact area reaching about 50 meters, according to locals in the area.

Six Scout Rangers, including a young lieutenant, and one CAFGU member sustained shrapnel wounds.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo said the wounded troops were those called for reinforcement after the CAFGU members found the driver acting suspiciously.

They were approaching the checkpoint when the explosion happened.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman said the van driver may have “detonated the bomb as he sensed danger he would be captured.”

On the other hand, reports quoting Lamitan City Mayor Roderick Furigay say the van driver “looked like a foreigner” and could not speak the local dialect.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim told Arab News initial information showed the van driver was a foreigner, but this remains to be validated.

“At this point it’s not yet clear,” Murad said. “We are still investigating what group is involved here. We have our own independent investigation and hopefully we can come up within a few days who are involved here.”

Arevalo, however, said they cannot say that “this was a foreign driver because he himself was killed in the blast” and “the AFP personnel who had contact with him also died instantaneously.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said: “If it can be established that it was indeed a case of suicide bombing,” the incident should be a cause of serious concern for the government and the public.

“Considering that it was the first of its kind in the country, it is frightening to say the least as, and God forbid, it could start a trend of a series of such terroristic acts that could hit other highly populated urban centers. The incident should prod the government to step up their intelligence and security capabilities to address this new deadly threat,” Lacson said, adding that “proactive offense prompted by good intelligence is still our best defense.”

Fr. Elizeo Mercado, Jr., senior policy adviser to the Institute of Autonomy and Good Governance, also said: “If it was a suicide bomber in the van, this would be the first time.” He added: “It raises the level of terrorism to a much higher notch.”

Malacañang condemned the attack, and called it a “war crime.”

The attack came a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law that aims to give autonomy to the Muslims of Mindanao.

US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

Updated 10 min 1 sec ago

US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

  • John Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas
  • Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.
John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down as acting CBP chief on July 5.
Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, a sign of the increasing strain on resources due to soaring numbers of arrests at the US-Mexico border.
The conditions at the center in Clint were described by a team of lawyers, doctors and others who visited the facility about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.
Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a CBP official said Tuesday that some 100 were being sent back there.
“The three-year old before me had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue,” wrote Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who accompanied the team.
“His only caretaker for the last three weeks in a United States Border Patrol chain-link cage and then a cell... his 11-year old brother,” Long said.
“Children at Clint told us they don’t have regular access to showers or clean clothes, with some saying they hadn’t been allowed to bathe over periods of weeks and don’t have regular access to soap,” she said.
Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Long said “the situation is dire.”
“And it’s not just Clint,” she said.
Sanders has led CBP since April, when President Donald Trump tapped CBP chief Kevin McAleenan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
In a message to staff, Sanders did not give a specific reason for quitting and officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times it was not clear if his resignation was directly related to the handling of underage migrants at the border.
Trump told reporters Tuesday he did not ask Sanders to step down but “knew there were going to be changes there.”
US law requires unaccompanied minors to be returned to their parents or transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.
But many of the children held by the Border Patrol in Clint had been there for three or four weeks, according to the team which visited the facility on June 17.
“The Border Patrol claims that high numbers of border arrivals are causing these delays as they wait for space to open up in the somewhat more child-friendly detention centers and shelters,” said HRW’s Long.
Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone. CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez said more than 100,000 were children and families.
“Everybody understands it is not the Border Patrol’s job to take care of children,” said Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited the Clint facility.
“They are as upset as we are that these children are being put into their care because they don’t have the ability to care for them,” Binford said on MSNBC.
“These children need to be with their families.”
Perez, the CBP deputy commissioner, made the same complaint recently at a panel discussion in Washington.
“We are a border security agency now being called upon to deal with things we’re not designed for,” Perez said.
Trump, asked about conditions at the detention centers, said he was “very concerned” and urged Democrats to approve $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding for the southwest border.
He said “bad people” were using children to take advantage of lax US immigration laws. “It’s a form of slavery what they’re doing to young children,” he said.
Trump also said Mexico “for the first time in 50 years is helping us” prevent border-crossing.
“So I just want to thank Mexico,” said the US leader, who had threatened steep tariffs on Mexican goods unless the government did more to slow migration.
After a week of tense negotiations, Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guardsmen and expand its policy of taking back migrants while the US processes their asylum claims. Mexico has also deployed 15,000 troops to the US border.
“They’ve done a great job,” said Trump. “Hopefully they can keep it up.”