BASILAN, Philippines - In an attack this week, that has increased worries about changing terrorists tactics in the Philippines, a car bombing targeting a military checkpoint in southern Philippines.
The attack, which was later claimed by Islamic State (ISIS), incidentally took place in Basilan island, which is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group that is notorious for kidnapping and banditry.
According to the Philippines military, the explosion took place moments after troops stopped the vehicle and spoke to the driver.
Officials said that the driver was the sole occupant of the vehicle and probably detonated the bomb.
A report in private-run Dzmm radio quoted a soldier who witnessed the attack as saying that the driver spoke in an unfamiliar dialect and may have been foreign.
In an official statement, an Army Spokesman said, “The suspected bomber, a soldier, five paramilitary troopers and four civilians, including a mother and her child, were killed and seven people were injured in the attack.”
The attack has raised concerns in the Philippines since vehicle bombings are very rare in the country, despite the country’s Mindanao region has been destabilized by decades of separatist and Islamist violence and has lured foreign extremists.
Further, the attack occurred on the Basilan island, which is a no-go area for most Filipinos and tourists as there are official warnings of the presence of Abu Sayyaf and fierce military offensives against its fighters.
Founded by Al Qaeda and pledged to the Islamic State, the kidnap-for-ransom militant group, Abu Sayyaf is based Basilan Island and has been held responsible for the Philippines’ worst terror attacks.
Since the 1970s, the Abu Sayyaf group has been responsible for claiming the lives of more than 120,000 people.
The Basilan island has however, been known as the home of the former leader, or “emir” of ISIS in southeast Asia, who was killed last year by the Philippine troops.
However, following some of the worst acts in recent years, the country’s Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman, had clarified publicly, “They (Abu Sayyaf) are ISIS-inspired and not actually ISIS supported. They are just ISIS wannabes.”
In the attack this week, not only was there an indication that a suicide car bombing - an extremely rare terror technique in the region was used but the attack was also claimed by ISIS, through their official news agency.
Earlier this week, Military Spokesman colonel Edgard Arevalo has said that security forces were investigating the incident and that there was no basis yet to conclude that the incident was a suicide bombing or had been carried out by a foreigner.
Meanwhile, in a statement carried by its Amaq news agency, ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack, which it called “a martyrdom operation.”
Meanwhile, the Philippines Presidential spokesman Harry Roque condemned the bombing as a “war crime,” and called it “an illegal use of force, even in times of armed conflict.”