DAVAO, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino indicated to reporters Thursday (August 8th) that Islamist militants may be linked to a recent spate of deadly bombings.
A total of 14 people were killed in two blasts on the southern island of Mindanao on July 26th and August 5th, with 76 others wounded. Seven soldiers were also wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Mindanao on Wednesday.
Authorities now believe the attacks were linked to security operations against the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Aquino said in Davao. Abu Sayyaf is widely believed to have links to the late Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, while the BIFF is an offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is currently in peace talks with the government.
"There is a theory that all of these bombings are related to that, to lessen the pressure of on-going follow-up operations against these BIFF elements," he told reporters.
Aquino did not say outright if Abu Sayyaf and BIFF are directly behind the recent Mindanao bombings. But he said security services are looking into growing links among three "threat groups" that he did not identify.
Operations are continuing against Abu Sayyaf, Aquino said. On Thursday, Philippine soldiers came under fire as they raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout on the island of Basilan. One soldier was killed and eight others wounded slightly, media reports said.