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.

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

Updated 18 min 7 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

WASHINGTON: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels.
“As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she will join seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They will urge political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.