Still No Peace in War-torn Sulu


Signs that Sulu is now on the way to recovery and development are yet to come, with random bombings and killings devastating this war-torn Southern Mindanao archipelago. “Unless the government begins reviewing its security policies and stop its overblown war against terrorism, Sulu will remain in its current state, ravaged and impoverished,” said Jolo Councilor Cocoy Tulawie.

April 14 bombing

At midnight of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, called Maulid en nabi, locals of Indanan town heard explosions in at least four villages. The explosives, believed to have been dropped from a high-flying bomber, pounded the villages of Balimbayan, Masjid Putih, Tambak and Subah Timauh. The bombings capped the celebration, which fell on a Good Friday for Christians.

Nine villagers were immediately killed including five women, three men and an eight-year old boy. The blasts also wrecked houses, recalled a local official.

“There was something unusual about the bombings,” said Jolo Councilor Cocoy Tulawie. He said that the four explosive devices bore “unusual” shrapnel. “We suspect the military is pilot-testing these bombs,” he said. He further believed that the devices were provided by U.S. troops who have been joining the local military in supposedly conducting “assessments” of the conflict area.

Amirah Lidasan, chair of Suara Bangsamoro Party-list, confirmed that her group received reports that U.S. missiles were fired at Indanan on April 14.

Sowing fear

Atty. Ulka P. Ulama, chair of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu (CCS), said his group submitted the findings of their investigation regarding the April 14 bombing to the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights in Zamboanga.

Ulama criticized the military for sowing fear amid a celebration and again using the Abu Sayyaf as escape goats.

The aluminum shell bomb with serial number 253561 measured two meters long and about 24 inches in diameter, he said. He claimed the bomb could only be manufactured either in the U.S. or Russia.

He said the Abu Sayyaf Group only uses dynamites in their attacks. Testimonies gathered by CCS revealed sightings of military aircraft where and when the bombs were dropped.

Yet, there has been no report coming from the government about the incident, lamented Ulama, also the chair of Sulu-Tawi-Tawi Bar Association, Inc.

The U.S. army contingent of 250 soldiers, who arrived for the 2006 Balikatan joint military exercise, was supposed to leave Sulu on March 5 and return to their base in Hawaii and Japan. But Tulawie said that a number of U.S. soldiers had remained “active” in various areas in Sulu. These U.S. soldiers claimed they are there to give away medicines, build schools and restore communities.

More combat operations

Tulawie said that the socio-civic missions supposedly being undertaken to help restore Sulu may be used as an excuse for continued combat operations.

The councilor said witnesses had reported sightings of “spy” planes, helicopters and naval ships. Witnesses also reported seeing military equipment being brought in from these helicopters and naval ships,” he said.

Tulawie fears that U.S. troops are gearing for more combat operations in Sulu, where members of Abu Sayyaf were believed to have been hiding after they were over-run in Basilan.

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