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First the terror and then the backlash

It's always the civilians who fall victim to violent acts by militants and the military

First the terror and then the backlash
Soldiers and medical personnel attend to victims of a recent bomb attack in Mindanao. (Photo by Mark Navales)
Joe Torres and Jef Tupas, Zamboanga City

August 8, 2013

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Sangkala Satol, a 51-year old Muslim carpenter, was in the wrong place at the wrong time on Monday afternoon. He was outside a store in the southern city of Cotabato, waiting for his wife who was buying a pack of milk for his 10-month old son.

Earlier, the couple was seen together inside the store. Satol went outside ahead of his wife who had to buy food for their “Iftar,’’ or the breaking of the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Then a car bomb exploded. Satol was among those who died on the spot. The other fatalities, nine in all, included 9-year old Jeddin Menak and 14-year old Nasrudin Guialel.

Norkhalila Mae Mambuay-Campong, a friend of Satol, said the carpenter's death was "very unfortunate, tragic, and heartbreaking." He left a wife and three very young children behind.

Campong said Satol, who earned US$221 a month as a carpenter, was a very "hardworking but silent" worker. "May his soul be at peace, and may God be with his loved ones in these hard times," Campong said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of the bomb blast," said Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He said it was "sad and unfortunate" that those who suffer most from "ruthless and cowardly" attacks were innocent civilians.

Amira Ali Lidasan of the Muslim group Suara Bangsamoro said they have been worried as a result of a series of recent bombings in Mindanao, especially since the United States issued a warning of possible terrorist threats from the al-Qaeda network.

Lidasan said the advisory might move Philippine authorities to conduct a crackdown on Muslim communities in Mindanao.

"In the past, this kind of operation had led to the rounding up and detention of innocent Moro civilians as well as military operations in Moro communities," Lidasan said. 

She urged authorities to "respect human rights and stop witch-hunting," adding that any act of terrorism "must not justify any form of discrimination toward any Muslim."

The Al Qalam Institute of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University labeled Monday’s bombing an "act of terrorism" and called for "swift justice."

"We strongly believe that no political cause could ever justify such immoral, evil, and cowardly acts against humanity,” said Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, head of the institute.

“It is disheartening to note that while Muslims look forward to the feast of Eid’l Fitr, the thought of them being the subjects of military and police operations, being made the ‘usual suspects,’ also hangs in the air,” said Mindanao legislator Carlos Isagani Zarate.

The recent wave of bombings in Mindanao has killed at least 17 innocent civilians and wounded almost 100.

On July 26, a blast in Cagayan de Oro City killed eight people and wounded 40 others. Authorities have already filed charges against six suspects who are allegedly members of the Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, a hitherto unknown group with supposed links to al-Qaeda.   

Only yesterday, two bombs exploded in North Cotabato province, injuring soldiers and civilians.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, Edno Infante, a motorcycle driver at Zamboanga airport, is warning passengers he takes to the city to be on their guard.

"We don't know what will happen next," he said. "It's always us ordinary people who become the victims."


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