Bombs kill nearly 150 in Syrian government-held cities: monitor

admin   •   May 24, 2016   •   1396

Monday, May 23, 2016 A general view shows a damaged bus station after explosions hit it in the Syrian city of Jableh May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Monday, May 23, 2016
A general view shows a damaged bus station after explosions hit it in the Syrian city of Jableh May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Bombs killed nearly 150 people and wounded at least 200 in Jableh and Tartous on Syria’s Mediterranean coast on Monday in the government-controlled territory that hosts Russian military bases, monitors and state media said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in the cities that have up to now escaped the worst of the violence in the five-year-old conflict, saying it was targeting members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 148 people were killed in attacks by at least five suicide bombers and two devices planted in cars. State media had said 78 people had been killed in what is Assad’s coastal heartland.

The attacks were the first of their kind in Tartous, capital of Tartous province and home to a Russian naval facility, and in Jableh in Latakia province, near a Russian-operated air base.

The Kremlin said the blasts underscored the need to press ahead with peace talks after the collapse of a Feb. 27 ceasefire in April due to intensifying violence in a war that has killed at least 250,000 people.

“This demonstrates yet again just how fragile the situation in Syria is. And this one more time underscores the need for new urgent steps to continue the negotiating process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his readiness to fight with the Syrian government against “the terrorist threat” and sent his condolences to Assad, the Kremlin said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the United Nations, state television reported, saying the blasts were a “dangerous escalation by the hostile and extremist regimes in Riyadh, Ankara and Doha”, referring to support given to the rebels by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks.

“BLOOD AND BODIES”

One of the four blasts in Jableh happened when a man walked into a hospital emergency department and blew himself up. Another blast was at a bus station. The Tartous bombs also targeted a bus station, the Observatory and state media said.

Younes Hassan, a doctor at the Jableh hospital, said he heard an explosion at the bus station, followed less than a minute later by the hospital blast.

“Everything went into emergency mode, wounded people began arriving,” he told Reuters by phone.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned this latest attack on healthcare.

The Tartous explosions occurred in quick succession, a driver at the bus station said.

“People began running but didn’t know which direction to go, cars were on fire, there was blood and bodies on the ground,” Nizar Hamade said.

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel showed several twisted and burnt-out cars and vans.

Islamic State claimed the attacks in a statement posted online by the group’s Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had targeted “gatherings of Alawites”.

A second statement from the militant group said the attacks were carried out in a government-held area “so they experience the same taste of death which Muslims so far have tasted from Russian (and Syrian government) air strikes on Muslim towns.”

Amaq said 10 Islamic State members died in the attacks, 5 in Tartous and 5 in Jableh.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview with Ikhbariya that terrorists were resorting to bomb attacks against civilians instead of fighting on the front lines, and vowed to keep battling them. The government refers to all insurgents fighting against it as terrorists.

The Observatory said an area of Tartous hosting internally displaced Syrians near a blast site was briefly attacked by government supporters in reaction to the bombings. Some tents were burned but nobody was killed.

Tartous governor Safwan Abu Saadah told Reuters reports on social media about refugees being shot were not true. He said some Tartous residents had gone to refugee areas to protect them from possible attacks.

“Two days ago some camps in Tartous province experienced fires because of electrical problems … today’s reports that people burned (these camps) are not true. Nobody would turn against our guests in this way,” Abu Saadah said.

Bombings in Damascus and the western city of Homs this year killed dozens of people and were also claimed by Islamic State, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadist rival al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and capital of the province, has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks, including late last year.

Government forces and their allies have recently stepped up bombardment of areas in Aleppo province in the north, which has become a focal point for the escalating violence. Insurgents have also launched major attacks in that area.

The only road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo city has suffered a week of increasingly heavy air strikes. Zakaria Malahefji, a senior official in the rebel group Fastaqim that operates in the Aleppo area told Reuters the road was bombarded again on Monday and was dangerous to use.

He said Iranian-backed fighters, who are supporting government forces, were mobilising in the southern Aleppo area.

France’s Foreign Ministry called the Tartous and Jableh bombings “odious” and said violence from all sides must stop if a political transition is to take place.

(Additional reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus, Lisa Barrington in Beirut, John Irish in Paris and Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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PNP says no ISIS threat in Bulacan, probes leak of draft memo

Robie de Guzman   •   September 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now investigating the leak and circulation online of a draft memorandum stating about the alleged presence of “ISIS affiliates” in Bulacan.

The said document posted on social media states that the Bulacan Provincial Police Office was on full alert status because of threats posed by the terrorist group. It said ISIS-inspired militants from Tuguegarao are moving to Bulacan to attack religious communities in the province.

According to Bulacan provincial police director Chito Barseluna, the document was not official and was not intended for public release.

He added that there was a miscommunication in drafting the memo as this should have been written to alert police units following recent bombings in Mindanao.

Barseluna confirmed that Bulacan police was indeed on full alert but this is because of the celebration of the Singkaban festival in the province.

The police official also denied receiving an intelligence report about the presence of an ISIS-inspired group in the province.

Barseluna also called on the public to stay calm and assured that tight security measures are in place. RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

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ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines—Duterte

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 10, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte and the ISIS flag | Courtesy : PCOO

President Rodrigo Duterte is confident that ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines.

During his speech in Jolo, Sulu on Tuesday (April 9) in commemoration of the Day of Valor, he said that the government is close to crushing violent extremism and is pleased with the military efforts against the Abu Sayyaf Group.

“Your efforts have brought us even closer to our ultimate objective of totally crushing the violent extremism at its roots. With this, I can confidently declare that ISIS will never gain foothold anywhere in the Philippines,” he said.

ISIS-linked militants held Marawi City hostage back in 2017. The military was able to retake the city after five months killing almost 900 insurgents including Isnilon Hapilon, considered leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

The Chief Executive assured that he will continue the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while he is still in office. He will also provide assistance to the military and their families.

He committed to release P500 million fund for the military.

“I will continue to release 500 more and 500 more millions to my soldiers who do something for their country. I will see to it that you will have funds when you retire and that your school—your children and their schooling will be assured even if we are no longer there either by natural or by any other means of saying goodbye to this world. I have your back covered,” the president said.

The Chief Executive is eyeing on appointing former military officials to government posts. However, he denied using the military to empower himself.

He said that he prefers the military because he has seen failure and corruption in the bureaucracy.

“Hindi ako sabihin na pinapalakas ko ang sarili ko sa (I am not empowering myself using the) military because I do not need that. The people elected me. But I have a special fondness for the military for being fundamentally honest at (and) industrious. Kaya as you would see, the next few officials coming in would be military guys,” he added.—Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PNP hunts down Jolo suicide bombers’ alleged daughter

admin   •   February 20, 2019

Photo courtesy of Ahmad Sajan

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is on the hunt for the alleged 10-year-old daughter of the two suicide bombers responsible for the Jolo cathedral blast.

According to a suspect turned witness, the suicide bombers were an Indonesian couple and was with their daughter when they met at the airport in Tayhaji, Buto Tiyam Caltex from Zamboanga. They took the Indonesian family to Bastiong Langub, Patikul Sulu.

He also described the couple which matches the statement of eyewitnesses at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral saying the suicide bombers were a man and a woman.

The man was 5’4 in height and was wearing a black shirt and the woman was 5’2 and was wearing a hijab. Their daughter was wearing a turong.

“Based on account and intelligence information at other accounts ng other witnesses ay talagang merong isang babae at isang lalaki, ang lumalabas sabi nila yung babae ang nasa loob at lalaki ang nasa labas” PNP chief PDG Oscar Albayalde said. (Based on account and intelligence information and other accounts of other witnesses, there was really a man and a woman. They said the woman was inside while the man was standing outside.)

DILG Sec. Eduardo Año previously said the suicide bombers left their daughter to Abu Sayyaf sympathizers before the blast

Meanwhile, Albayalde wants to find the alleged daughter for DNA testing to prove if the suicide bombers are really her parents as well as to confirm their nationality.

“Iyong information na meron silang iniwan na anak dito sa Pilipinas hopefully makita natin dahil paglaki niyan posibleng maging potential suicide bomber din. Of course nakita nila sa kanilang parents.” (There is information that they left their child in the Philippines. Hopefully we can find her because she could end up becoming a suicide bomber herself as she had seen from her parents. )

Albayalde also wants an immediate action to prevent the child from getting influenced by terrorists.

He also confirmed that the two pairs of feet found in the blast site belonged to a man and a woman based on the test done by the PNP Crime Laboratory.

The woman’s feet also matches the DNA of the nape also found in the blast site.

“So the same person, yung isang pares na pangbabae at yung part ng batok na nakuha, at walang nag match sa mga ito doon sa 23 na namatay, walang nag match doon sa DNA nila.” (So one pair of feet and a part of the nape are the same person. It also did not match with the 23 fatalities, their DNAs did not match.)

The PNP chief also explained they have all the parts of the 23 victims but the man and woman whose feet were found recently remains to be unidentified.

“Iyong babae ang sabi nila ay hindi nagsasalita kasi base on witness and source ay bago bago lang siya dito sa Pilipinas, yung lalaki medyo matagal na kaya nakakapagsalita na sya ng konting Tausug.”(Witnesses and sources said, the woman hardly spoke because she hadn’t been in the Philippines long. The man, on the other hand, had been in the country for long so he could speak a little Tausug.)

He also confirmed that the Indonesian Police, who also investigated the 2002 Bali Bombing, arrived in the country and had already taken DNA samples from the blast site. — Aileen Cerrudo

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