Philippines vows to bring cathedral bombers to justice

This handout photo released by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Information Office (PIO) Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCON) taken on January 27, 2019, shows debris inside a Catholic Church where two bombs exploded in Jolo, Sulu province on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Philippines vows to bring cathedral bombers to justice

  • The president flew to the southern Philippine island of Sulu on Monday to assess the situation
  • Duterte on Monday ordered the military to destroy the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered the military to destroy the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) after Philippine authorities named it the primary suspect in the double bombing of a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday that left 20 dead and more than 100 injured.
The president, accompanied by his top security officials, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, flew to the southern Philippine island of Sulu on Monday to assess the situation at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman-Catholic Cathedral.
Lorenzana said that six suspects have been named in connection with the cathedral attack after footage was recovered showing the men acting suspiciously outside the church after the first explosion.
Following the attack, Jolo has been placed on lockdown as security forces scrambled to restore normalcy while they hunt down the perpetrators.
Security had also been tightened across the entire of Sulu, as well as in the cities of Isabela and Lamitan in Basilan province. Sulu and Basilan are known strongholds of ASG, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh.
The Philippine government has assured the international community that those behind the attack would be brought to justice following strong condemnations of the bombings.
Salvador Panelo, a spokesman for President Duterte, said he has directed the AFP to undertake measures to prevent similar incidents from happening.
Duterte’s spokesman said that the latest violence is all the more reason for Mindanao island to be under martial law despite critics saying that the bombings are indicative of the fact that it is ineffective.
“If you can do that under a martial law regime, then all the more reason you should maintain it and be more strict in the implementation of security measures in that area,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) vowed that those responsible for this attack would not go unpunished.
“We grieve over the unnecessary loss of so many lives in this act of violence, which can only be perpetrated by the forces of evil. Those responsible for this crime will not go unpunished. We will find them and bring them to justice,” the DFA said.
“We are thankful for the many expressions of sympathy and solidarity from the international community. This terrorist act comes at a sensitive and yet hopeful period following the ratification by an overwhelming majority of the Bangsamoro Organic Law that seeks to bring peace and progress to Mindanao.”
The Kingdom, the US, Russia, Canada, Jordan and Japan all condemned the attack.
“A crime committed against civilians who gathered for a church service is shocking,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telegram published by the Kremlin.
Sung Kim, US ambassador to the Philippines, expressed his “deepest sympathies for the tragic loss of life in Jolo.”
“We condemn this senseless violence and we will do everything possible to support the AFP,” he said.
The military said the Daesh claim to the attack remains “a form of propaganda at this time,” noting that “they have had false claims in the past.”


Amid security worries, gun sales thrive in Iraq’s Mosul

Updated 11 min 48 sec ago
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Amid security worries, gun sales thrive in Iraq’s Mosul

  • Gun ownership was expected to increase since Iraq altered legislation in 2018 allowing civilians to purchase pistols and semi-automatic weapons, after they had only been allowed to buy hunting guns
MOSUL, Iraq: Hunting rifles, pistols and towers of ammunition magazines: new gun shops are popping up in Iraq’s Mosul, where residents are keen to own personal firearms in the unpredictable aftermath of Daesh rule.
The Daesh group reigned over the city for three years before being ousted by Iraqi forces in mid-2017.
But with militants sleeper cells still active across the broader province, the new half-dozen licensed gun traders in Mosul are seeing impressive sales.
“We’ve got a lot of customers,” said one shop owner in his 40s, who was granted a weapon-trading license from Iraq’s interior ministry a few months ago.
All his customers have gun permits, and “many also carried membership cards in the armed forces,” he told AFP.
His most popular item? Hunting rifles, said the trader. “They make up 70 percent of all my sales,” he said proudly.
Iraq has one of the highest rates of civilian gun ownership in the world, according to the Small Arms Survey, which estimated about 20 guns per 100 Iraqi civilians last year.
Gun ownership was expected to increase since Iraq altered legislation in 2018 allowing civilians to purchase pistols and semi-automatic weapons, after they had only been allowed to buy hunting guns.
In Mosul, newly-licensed shops are the latest addition to the roughly 130 gun shops across the rest of Iraq.
They offer a wide spectrum of weaponry to Mosul’s residents, from machine guns and hunting rifles to US, Chinese or Croatian pistols.
They range from $50 to $5,000, a hefty purchase in a country where the average monthly income is $500.

“We sell to civilians, but also to members of the military,” said another gun shop owner in Mosul, who also preferred to speak anonymously.
The civilians included recreational hunters but also “businessmen and journalists” who felt they may be targeted for their profession, he said.
One of them is Abu Nizar, a Mosul resident who keeps a pistol on his belt and a Kalashnikov assault rifle in his exchange office.
“A number of money-changing offices and other traders were attacked,” the 45-year-old told AFP, so he requested a gun license to keep himself and his business safe.
But it’s not just civilians who are determined to be armed.
Hamed Hassan, a 21-year-old member of Iraq’s security forces, carries a weapon while on duty but has to turn it in when he goes home.
“The security situation is still fragile,” he told AFP while weaving his way between glass cases of rifles and ammunition stockpiles in a Mosul storefront.
“I need a weapon for my personal protection.”
Hundreds of militants are believed to be hiding in the rugged mountains and open plains around Mosul, with deadly hit-and-run attacks reported every few days against military installations or government offices.
After the US-led invasion of 2003, Mosul became a stronghold of the anti-American insurrection, with Al-Qaeda seizing control of parts of the city.
The group’s terrorist progeny Daesh overran Mosul in 2014, capturing stockpiles of arms, ammunition and tanks from Iraqi forces, much of which had originated as military aid from the US.

Across Iraq, many communities rose up to defend themselves against Daesh, sometimes using personal weapons and in other cases with direct backing from the state.
Now that fighting has died down, parts of those stockpiles are being illicitly bought and sold across the country.
“Light arms of all types are still feeding the black market,” a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Some were stolen, others recuperated after Daesh fled and still others were smuggled” across northern Iraq, which borders Turkey and war-ravaged Syria.
But some Mosul residents fear even the legal trade in weapons could have negative repercussions on their city, deeply scarred by years of violence.
When Daesh held Mosul, it forced teenage boys to fight and enrolled them in military training and religious classes, meting out violent punishments — including beheadings — against those who defied its rules.
“Mosul was recently recaptured — there are still clandestine terrorist cells there that could exploit” gun sales, said sociologist Ali Zeidan, who is from Mosul.
“Crime could go up if someone got their hands on weapons this way. There should be very tough restrictions,” the 35-year-old told AFP.
Amer Al-Bek, a political analyst in the city, said authorities should reconsider awarding gun sale licenses.
“The situation in Mosul is not as stable as officials would have you believe,” Bek told AFP.
“Selling such arms to civilians will have a negative effect on security now and in the future.”