Unverified info about attacks in Mindanao being spread via chat

January 30, 2019 - 4:02 PM
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Bloodstains and debris on the floor after a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga
Bloodstains and debris seen on the floor after a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga, Philippines, January 30, 2019. This still image was taken from a video from social media. (Photo from Zamboanga Quick Response System/via Reuters)

The public is being called to avoid spreading unverified information being passed around on social media and online messengers following a string of attacks in Mindanao.

Social media users shared unverified text message warnings with no clear origin urging people to stay away from public places.

It also mentioned that a certain “psychologist” counseled an “expert bomber” from Basilan who allegedly revealed that ten bombs would be detonated in General Santos, Davao, Ipil, Cotabato and Zamboanga.

A native Zamboanga resident, who asked not to be identified, told Interaksyon that the particular message has been forwarded to group chats of people within the Zamboanga community prior to the mosque bombing.

The resident received the message on January 29, Tuesday and added that such messages would be forwarded to them every time a region is put on “red alert.”

“Fake news ata ‘to though kasi usually, we receive these a lot every time may red alert,” the resident said.

The resident also recalled that the same thing happened during the Marawi siege, where messages of a “planned MILF attack” circulated.

“May kumakalat na text… pero maraming wrong info,” the resident said.

Another forwarded message claimed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would implement a “shoot to kill” order during curfew hours at night.

In light of the messages, some social media users urged the public to refrain from spreading unverified information, noting that it would only incite panic and mass hysteria.

Bombings within a three-day span

In the past few days, Mindanao has experienced a string of deadly explosions since January 27, Sunday.

The first incident involved the bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu that left 27 people dead.

Two bombs were detonated while mass was ongoing. It has been a few days after the city voted against the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in a plebiscite.

Authorities believed the suspects belong to Abu Sayyaf’s faction called Ajang-Ajang who might have carried out the attack as revenge for the death of their relatives killed in military operations.

A roadside bomb explosion and gunfire were reported in Magpet, North Cotabato on January 28, Monday. The incident resulted in the death of a police officer and eight people.

The explosion occurred after New People’s Army rebels were killed in an encounter with the military in Barangay Bagumbayan.

Despite the consecutive bombings, Zamboanga Peninsula Police Director Chief Superintendent Emmanuel Luis Licup said that it is hard to speculate if the Jolo and Zamboanga explosions are related.

“We cannot speculate. It’s very hard to speculate kasi some people are trying to connect it sa incident sa Jolo but wala pa tayong pwedeng sabihin, wala pang lead to say really kung ano ang motive niyan,” he said in an interview.

The latest incident was a grenade attack at a mosque located at Logoy Diutay, Barangay Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City around 1 a.m. on January 29, while religious leaders were sleeping.

The fatalities were identified as Habil Rex and Bato Sattal while the injured were Yasson Asgali, Paulo Salahuddin, Albani Jikilani and Amidz Kassara.