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Suicide bombings in Mindanao take place despite extended martial law

Suicide bombing attacks in the southern portion of the Philippines, where martial law is being implemented, have grabbed headlines especially when news reports bared that a Filipino was involved in one of the explosion incidents.

Norman Lasuca, 23, was identified by security forces as one of the suicide bombers in the blast incident inside a military camp in Indanan, Sulu last June 28 which took the lives of at least seven individuals.

Captain Arvin Encinas, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said Lasuca could have been "educated" and "brainwashed" about suicide bombing by terror groups through a "religious approach."

"Napapaniwala sila na may sasalubong sa kanila na puting kabayo once na ginagawa nila 'yun... 'yan ang doctrination ng mga violent extremist group," Encinas told GMA News Online, adding that the white horse represents eternal life.

When news about Lasuca broke, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo assured the public that adjustments would be made to ensure security in Mindanao.

Arevalo had considered the incident as an isolated case, however, he still gave an assurance to the public that authorities would shed light on how a Filipino got involved in this kind of inhumane act.

In a latest interview, Arevalo said the probe on violent extremist groups educating Filpinos about suicide bombing, which he described as an "issue of radicalization," is still ongoing.

For Encinas, Filipinos resorting to suicide bombing in order to promote radicalization and violent extremism is still unlikely.

"Baka nagiisang Norman Lasuca lang naman 'yan at wala ng susunod. Hindi pa naman ganoon kalakas ang loob ng Pinoy," Encinas said.

Timeline of incidents

Four suicide bombing incidents have been recorded by government troops, according to Arevalo.

The first incident was in July 2018 which claimed the lives of at least 10 individuals aboard a van at a military checkpoint in Lamitan City, Basilan, a stronghold of local terror group Abu Sayyaf. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing incident, saying that it was "martyrdom operation."

Philippine authorities then believed that the Abu Sayyaf perpetrated the inhumane act. 

Early this year, another suicide bombing incident reached headlines after twin explosions killed 23 individuals and wounded more than a hundred others at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.

Local authorities bared that Indonesian suicide bombers were behind the attack. It was actually President Rodrigo Duterte who first mentioned the involvement of suicide bombers in the deadly incident.

Months after the January 27 blast, a military camp was attacked in Indanan, Sulu last June. On this blast, seven individuals, including three soldiers, were killed while more than 20 others were injured.

The recent suicide bombing incident, meanwhile, transpired in a military detachment, again, in Indanan town on September 8.

Initial probe has indicated that the suicide bomber, who was the lone fatality in the thwarted attack at a military detachment in Barangay Kajatian, was female and Caucasian-looking.

Still, samples from the remains of the suicide bomber will undergo DNA testing, according to Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.

Sobejana then bared that government troops are now going after two remaining suicide bombers who are believed to be in Sulu. He noted that initially, there were five suicide bombers in the Philippines and three of them have already blown themselves up.

Martial law extension?

The AFP was asked if martial law in Mindanao, which is due to end on December 31, 2019, will be extended again following the recent suicide bombing incident.

For Arevalo, it is still too early to determine if the military would recommend another martial law extension.

"Ang kailangan natin dito maestablish muna natin ang kasiguruhan ng seguridad ng particular area like Mindanao where martial law is now in place," Arevalo said.

"But we also give premium doon sa mga lugar na nagsasabi mismo o local government officials na puwede niyo nang tanggalin ang martial law dito sa aming lugar because everything is relatively safer even without martial law," he added.

Mindanao was placed under martial law in May 2017 after the ISIS-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City.

Both the police and the military have been saying that without the imposition of military rule in Mindanao, these explosion incidents would have become more uncontrolled. —LDF, GMA News