Sep 132014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2009-07-08 10:52
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #1441/01 1891052
O 081052Z JUL 09
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001441


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/07/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Beginning Saturday, July 4, widely
dispersed bombings in the southern Philippines have claimed
the lives of at least 8 persons, and wounded nearly 100 more.
As the investigation continues, initial analysis suggests
the recent bombings in Central Mindanao and Jolo Island may
be separate acts of violence carried out by the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front-Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) and Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG), in retaliation for a series of successful
recent military operations by the Philippine military against
rogue MILF elements and the ASG. However, at least one
bombing may have been a criminal act related to an extortion
attempt. The Philippine government has been robust but
measured in its response; President Arroyo convened a July 7
command conference of her cabinet ministers, including
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and senior military and
police advisors, and placed Philippine security forces on
full alert. The Ambassador has spoken with Malacanang Palace
as well as local officials, offering condolences while urging
caution. The Mission is cooperating closely with Philippine
authorities on post-blast investigation, and believes that
its existing strongly worded travel advisory to U.S. citizens
for the southern Philippines remains appropriate in the face
of recent violence. END SUMMARY.

Blast in Cotabato Targets Sunday Mass

¶2. (S) The attacks began July 4, when a bomb exploded at the
house of the mayor of Datu Piang city, Maguindanao Province,
wounding three civilians. According to local authorities,
the nighttime blast was caused by a bomb fashioned from a 60
mm mortar round attached to a battery-operated detonator.
Later that evening, a second bomb was found near the mayor’s
home by the Philippine military and safely defused. Rogue
elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have
been blamed for this incident. On July 5, shortly after the
end of a Sunday morning mass celebrated by Archbishop Orlando
Quevedo, a bomb outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate
Conception in Cotabato City, Maguindanao Province, detonated
as parishioners departed worship, killing six and wounding at
least 30 others. Philippine military and government
intelligence sources posited that recent graduates from a
Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)/MILF bomb class carried out this.
Additional intelligence reports indicate that rogue MILF
Commander Kato specially targeted non-Muslim areas for
bombing attacks in Maguindanao Province in retaliation for
recent successful military operations against the MILF.

Attacks Continue July 7

¶3. (C) On July 7, two more bombs exploded on the island of
Jolo in what Philippine authorities characterized as a
“coordinated attack.” The first bombing occurred in Jolo
City, killing two civilians and wounding 50 more. The
bombing occurred in a crowded commercial center less than 100
yards away from the local Catholic church. Police reported
receiving a bomb-threat warning of an attack on the church,
and dispatched searchers; as they approached an abandoned
motorcycle near a hardware store, a bomb in its saddlebag
detonated. The PNP believes the call was made to draw
security forces and first responders to the area, in order to
maximize casualties. The PNP discovered two additional
explosive devices in the same area. Most of the wounded were
students on their way to class. In a separate incident in
Central Mindanao, a bomb hidden beneath a vehicle outside a
pawnshop exploded in Iligan City in Lanao Del Norte Province,
wounding an estimated 20 people. The initial investigation
indicates that an 81mm mortar round was used, and detonated
by cellphone.

Condolences — And Robust Response

¶4. (C) Ambassador spoke July 8 with Malacanang Executive
Secretary Eduardo Ermita, expressing condolences for the
victims and their loved ones. Ermita thanked the Ambassador,
and outlined how Philippine President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo, appalled at the bombings, had immediately convened a
command conference. Ermita added that it remained unclear
who had carried out the bombings. The Ambassador later spoke
with Cotabato Mayor Muslimin Sema, who reported that the city
was still reeling from shock at the brutal attack; Sema
expressed concern that the bombing might exacerbate religious
tensions. He indicated that he had been in communication
with MILF spokesman Eid Kabbalu, and believed the MILF might
soon issue a strong condemnation of the bombings. The
Ambassador underscored the importance of undertaking a

MANILA 00001441 002 OF 002

careful investigation and avoiding any premature conclusions
regarding those responsible. She added that any MILF
condemnation would resonate well with all who seek an early
return to peace negotiations, and reassured Mayor Sema that
the United States remained a committed partner in the effort
to achieve lasting peace.

¶5. (C) Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the Philippine
Council for Islam and Democracy on July 7 condemned the
bombings in the strongest terms, while pointing to the
violence as additional motivation for an early resumption of
stalled peace talks between the government and Muslim
insurgents. Enrile observed that, “We will not achieve
economic prosperity unless we find peace in Mindanao.” The
National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, which
represents several thousand Muslim clerics, echoed the
sentiments, condemning the attack against Cotabato’s
cathedral. Straying from its usual avoidance of public
involvement in such matters, the Ulama said, “Islam is a
religion of peace and condemns unjustified use of violence
even in the name of religion.” The Ulama also joined the
Catholic Bishops Conference in calling for restraint in the
face of widespread calls for retribution.

¶6. (C) The Mission is working actively to assist Philippine
authorities in investigating the bombings and identify
possible suspects. U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force
– Philippines (JSOTF) explosive ordnance disposal teams are
working with police in Jolo, and post-blast investigation
efforts by Philippine authorities have been facilitated by
USG-provided training. Ambassador and senior Country Team
members discussed the Embassy’s current security posture for
both Mission members and American civilians, and believe that
it remains appropriate in the face of recent violence.


¶7. (C) Although information available so far does not
indicate that the bombings on Mindanao are directly linked to
those in the Sulu Archipelago, both bear disturbing new
elements. The construction, location, and timing of the
explosive devices appear to have been engineered to ensure
maximum personnel casualties. The placement of the bombs
near churches is an unusual element; although most terrorist
acts in these areas have been associated with extremists
among the Muslim minority, Christian churches have heretofore
not been specifically targeted. Ironically, the names of
those killed and wounded would appear to indicate that most
victims of the bombings were Muslim.



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