Military suspects Abu Sayyaf behind blast that killed 10 people in Basilan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 31) —Powerful homemade bombs packed inside a van exploded early Tuesday at a security checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan, killing 11 people. Officials suspect the attack could be the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said based on his conversation with the Western Mindanao Commander, Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the driver of the van "whose identity is not yet known ay part ng grupo ni Furuji Indama."

Indama is a top leader of the ASG. His group is known for kidnapping and other terroristic activities in the past.

The blast near the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit detachment in Sitio Maganda in Lamitan killed one soldier, four government militiamen, four relatives of CAFGU members, and the van driver, Arevalo said. Six scout rangers and one CAFGU member were wounded.

Lamitan Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay said Scout Rangers went after the van after the CAFGU members manning the checkpoint reported a suspicious bag inside the car.

"Sa loob ng van, allegedly nandoon ang driver na ayaw bumaba, so paglapit ng mga scout ranger at nag-surround ang CAFGU, pumutok na ang van," Furigay told CNN Philippines.

The explosion's impact reached 50 meters, toppling power lines, even tearing down a concrete wall. It also destroyed some vehicles and left a crater on the road.

Despite the deaths, Arevalo called the incident a successful Army operation because security forces were able to foil the reported plan of ASG under Indama to deploy IEDs to key areas of Basilan.

"Naging matagumpay tayo sa ating ginawang pagpigil sa pagkapasok sana ng IED na sakay ng isang van," he said.

Defense analyst Rommel Banlaoi said Indama's group has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. While the Abu Sayyaf is slowly losing its grip in Basilan, Banlaoi believes that they are still capable of massive attacks.

"They have lost strength but they have not been totally eradicated. They can still create a lot of trouble in Mindanao. They still have a capability to mount such massive attacks and they have the intention to do that," he said.

Arevalo cautioned against calling the attack a suicide bombing incident or the handiwork of a lone wolf attacker due to insufficient evidence as the investigation is still ongoing. No group has yet claimed responsibility.

The initial report from the police said the van driver was a "foreign driver," but Arevalo said this cannot be verified as of yet as the witnesses who saw him were among the fatalities.

"Huwag nang dagdagan pa ang pangamba ng ating mga kababayan sa Basilan sa pamamagitan ng iba't-ibang haka haka na wala namang validation," Arevalo said.

He also said it was not clear if there was only one or several improvised bombs inside the van and if it was the driver who detonated it. Explosives experts are trying to find out the type and design of the explosive used.

The Palace condemned the attack, calling it a "war crime" and an "indiscriminate attack."

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest terrorist attack in Basilan perpetrated in violation to our laws. We note that even in times of war, the attack constitutes a war crime because it constitutes an indiscriminate attack," he said.

He added the attack should prompt security officials to review the capability of the country's intelligence units as perpetrators managed to carry out the attack despite the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

"I do not know how it happened but what I'm saying is illegal acts will happen whether or not we have intelligence communities but perhaps one thing that the miltiary and security establishment must look into is their intelligence capability," he said.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles, Ina Andolong contributed to this report.