The Islamic State has killed ten people including civilians and army personnel in the Philippines on Tuesday. The people were killed by an explosion that tore through a van as it rolled through an army checkpoint in southern Philippines.
The vehicle exploded just as it was flagged down for a stop and search by soldiers and government backed militia at dawn in the outskirts of Lamitan; a predominantly Christian city on the Island of Basilan which is predominantly Islamic.
Authorities have linked the attack to a wider plot by Islamic State militants in the Philippines as it was confirmed that one soldier, five militia troops and four civilians lost their lives in the attack.
The Philippine military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo, confirmed the attack saying that the van driver who was also killed in the attack was a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who are allied with the Islamic State.
He explained that stop and search operations were being conducted in the area after reports indicated that Islamic extremist had planned to plant improvised explosives in areas around the island; Basilan is a stronghold of the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group.
“We can just imagine the tragedy that this would bring to the people of Basilan had we not stopped them at the checkpoint,” he said.
The Abu Sayyaf group is one of several armed groups fighting government forces in the southern Philippines, where there have been a decade long rebellion that has claimed more than 100,000 lives by official count.
The Vice Mayor of Lamitan, Roderick Furigay, speculated that the explosives could have been intended for a parade which was to be held on Tuesday morning by 4,000 children in the city centre to mark the country’s “nutrition month”.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed a law guaranteeing greater autonomy to the south in hopes that the move would help douse the conflict.
Basilan had been put under martial rule until the end of the year after the Abu Sayyaf group members based on the island joined pro-Islamic State group militants who had seized the southern city of Marawi last year.
The siege lasted for five months and resulted in the deaths of at least 1,200 people as well as the destruction of the city centre. The Militants had planned to turn the city into the capital of a Southeast Asian Islamic Caliphate.
President Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque condemned the Basilan attack and described it as a war crime against the civilian population of Lamitan.