CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Mindanao on full alert after car bomb blast

Cotabato (UCAN): “There can never be peace if we continue this kind of attitude of fomenting fear among our people,” Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz, in Mindanao, said after security forces were placed on full alert in the southern Philippine region after a deadly suicide car-bomb attack in Basilan province —blamed on the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group—killed 10 people on July 31.
 
The archbishop, who was the bishop of Basilan for 14 years, said the attack makes the achievement of peace on the island elusive.
 
The powerful explosion at a military checkpoint in the city of Lamitan killed six soldiers and four civilians. The driver of the vehicle, rigged with improvised bombs, was also killed in the blast.
 
The vehicle went off while being examined by the soldiers. 
 
The attack came a week after Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which aims to establish a new Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao (Sunday Examiner, August 5).
 
Terrorism expert, Rommel Banlaoi, of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said the peace deal was not a “magic pill that can (be) a panacea to the multifaceted problems of armed conflicts.”
 
He said challenges would come from local politicians and armed groups opposed to the new Bangsamoro law. 
 
Banlaoi warned that the new law could be used as leverage by the so-called Islamic State to attract foreign fighters to come to Mindanao to oppose the “cooptation of the infidels.”
 
Archbishop Jumoad said peace in Mindanao could only be achieved if Muslims and Christians achieve unity.
 
Bishop Edwin dela Peña of the Prelature of Marawi, said the bomb attack was “violent extremism at its ugliest…”
 
“We condemn this act without reservation,” said the bishop of the war-torn city of Marawi, where about 400,000 people lost their homes during clashes between security forces and Islamic State-inspired fighters last year.
 
Bishop Dela Peña said Abu Sayyaf, which is known for abducting and killing hostages in Basilan, bungled the opportunity for dialogue with the attack.
 
Last month, Duterte announced that he was inviting the group for talks in line with efforts to bring peace and stability to Mindanao.
 
The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mujiv Hataman, condemned the blast as a “brazen act of violence against our people.”
 
He assured the families of the victims of help, adding that security in the region would be strengthened without compromising the rights of the people.
 
Philippine defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said the government would get to the bottom of the incident and will “apply the full force of the law on the perpetrators.”

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