Extortion eyed in blast in Sultan Kudarat

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    MILITARY investigators are looking into extortion as the main angle in last Saturday’s roadside bombing in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat that injured eight people, including a traffic enforcer.

    “(It’s) more on extortion to sustain their existence,” Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said in a phone interview yesterday.

    Sobejana said seven of the eight injured have been discharged from the hospital. “Out of the eight, only one is still confined in the hospital. The rest have gone home already,” he said.

    Sobejana said the attack was perpetrated by the so-called Al Irhab Group, which he said is associated with the Daulah Islamiya-Turaife Group.

    He downplayed reports about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claiming responsibility for the attack at the Isulan public market. The improvised bomb was placed on a parked motorcycle.

    “It’s not ISIS, there is no ISIS personality there (in Isulan),” said Sobejana, adding the Daulah Islamiya-Turaife Group is merely “ISIS inspired” and they did it primarily for money.

    Last September 2, Sobejana said the office of Isulan Mayor Marites Pallasigue received a letter from the Al Irhab Group demanding P250,000. Pallasigue ignored the extortion demand.

    “Per verification, the extortionist is connected to the group of Salahuddin Hassan of the Daulah Islamiya Turaife Group,” said Sobejana.

    He said the Al Irhab Group traces its roots from another extortionist group, the Al-Khobar Group where Hassan was a former member.

    Sobejana said the Daulah Islamiya-Turaife Group’s extortion, through the Al Irhab Group,

    “indicates their dwindling resources and lack of popular support.”

    “They just want to project strength despite several setbacks as a result of the relentless security operations launched by the government forces,” said Sobejana, noting the Daulah Islamiya-Turaife Group has suffered losses recently from the military.

    “IED (improvised explosion device) explosion in public places among the terror group is a desperate move. Their intention is probably to continue to gain international recognition for possible funding,” Sobejana also said.

    Sobejana said the bomb that exploded in Isulan lacked an ordnance.

    “It can be ammonium nitrate or black powder placed in a plastic container placed in a parked motorcycle,” he said.