MANILA – Philippine authorities confirmed on Wednesday that at least one of the two suspected attackers of a June 28 bombing in Sulu was a local, making him the first known Filipino suicide bomber.
DNA tests confirmed that one of the bombers in the attack on a military base in the city of Indanan in Sulu province that killed eight dead and wounded 22 was Norman Lasuca, 20, whose remains who have been handed over to her mother, military officials said.
Lasuca’s mother had claimed that her son, who was linked to the Abu Sayyaf that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant network, had fled from home in 2014.
Armed Forces spokesperson General Edgard Arevalo confirmed that this was the first suicide bombing carried out by a Filipino in the country.
Arevalo said precautions were being taken to prevent another such attack and that the authorities were considering it as an isolated case despite it being the third suicide bombing in the country in the last 12 months claimed by the IS.
The first suicide attack in the Philippines took place on July 31 last year on Basilan island – a traditional Abu Sayyaf stronghold – where around 10 people died. That was followed by the twin bombing of Jolo Cathedral in Sulu this year in January.
The twin blasts have been the one of deadliest attacks given that 20 people died and 100 were wounded.
However, authorities had then reported that foreign terrorists, linked to the IS and Abu Sayyaf, were behind these attacks: two Indonesians in the twin bombing of Jolo and a Maghreb national in the Basilan attack.
Although Islamist terrorism is not new in the Philippines, suicide attacks are not the typical modus operandi of local terror outfits and pose a new threat to the conflict region of Muslim Mindanao, which has become the new refuge of foreign terrorists who have fled the IS caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Since the January attack on the cathedral, Philippine authorities have deployed more military personnel to Sulu province, an archipelago located in Muslim Mindanao where Abu Sayyaf is now believed to be gathering more troops.
Police spokesperson Bernard Banac said they were looking for similarities between the cathedral and military base attacks, as they occurred in the same province where Abu Sayyaf leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the new emir of Islamic State in Southeast Asia, is believed to be hiding.
Banac confirmed Abu Sayyaf’s involvement in both attacks although investigations are still ongoing.
This new series of attacks comes after relative calm in the region following the Battle of Marawi, which resulted in the defeat of several terrorist groups including Abu Sayyaf by the Philippine army after five months of fighting from May to October 2017.