The chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has ordered the deployment of Special Action Force (SAF) and Police Regional Office in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PROBAR) to beef up police and military forces in Sulu following Monday’s noontime twin suicide bombing in Jolo.
The directive was issued by PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa amid the hoisting of a “red alert” status in Sulu as part of the security measures to prevent further attacks and to stabilize the peace and order situation in the volatile province in the aftermath of the bombings that killed 15 people and wounded 64 others.
Gamboa ordered SAF Director Maj. Gen. Clifton Empiso and PROBAR Director Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu to reinforce police forces in Sulu, even as he dismissed calls for the relief of members of the Jolo Police Station.
“Unless there is sufficient evidence establishing criminal involvement, or administrative lapses leading to the attack, the PNP maintains full confidence in our ground personnel,” he said.
One of the two suicide bombings that was carried out, and which occurred in front of the Development Bank of the Philippines building at Barangay Walled City in Jolo, was directed against police forces who were on security patrol.
Both suicide bombings were carried out about an hour apart by two women who were wives of two Abu Sayyaf Group members believed to have been radicalized by the Islamic State (IS).
Both women were the subjects of pursuit operations by intelligence personnel in July when four Army operatives were killed by members of the Jolo police.
The IS claimed responsibility for the bombings but military officials dismissed the claim as mere “propaganda” intended prop up the terrorist group’s image.
Gamboa has issued an order for a deeper probe into the attacks by mobilizing the Philippine Bomb Data Center (PBDC) and Crime Laboratory for technical support to the ongoing investigation.
The PNP chief said the PBDC analysts will determine any specific bomb signature of the explosives that were detonated based on reconstruction of forensic evidence gathered by Crime Laboratory and other security forces that responded to the explosions.
Gamboa said “any specific bomb signature that will be determined from the technical analysis will be compared with known bomb signatures from previous incidents that are stored in the PBDC database to possibly identify the person, or group, to whom the bomb signature can be associated with.”