An investigation team sent by Indonesia to Manila last week could not confirm Philippine claims that an Indonesian couple carried out twin bombings that killed 23 people at a Jolo island church, a senior counter-terror source in Jakarta told BenarNews.
Philippine Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had claimed that an Indonesian man and woman were responsible for the Jan. 27 explosions at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines.
“There were no DNA profile of the couple, no finger prints according to the post-mortem done on body parts found at the crime scene,” the Indonesian security source told Benar via a phone interview from Jakarta.
Philippine security forces have arrested and filed murder charges against five suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf, a ragtag band of militants linked with the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
Authorities in the Philippines, including President Rodrigo Duterte, claim that those five men worked with a couple, believed to be Indonesians, who bombed the church. Indonesian investigators arrived in Manila early this month to help probe those suspicions.
Six days after the bombings, Año told CNN that the couple was sometimes mistaken for Malaysians. “I’m certain they are Indonesians,” he said, identifying the man as “Abu Huda” and adding he had been in Sulu province “for a long time already.”
The woman arrived in Jolo days before the bombings, Año said. But the Indonesian source said that the team of counter-terror investigators has not yet received concrete evidence from Philippine authorities since returning to Jakarta this week.
The source said Philippine authorities had told the team that the Indonesian bomber was named “Abu Huda” and was believed to have travelled to Manila on Jan. 21 with his 10-year-old daughter.
“Indonesian police checked every single passenger who flew out to Manila on January 21 from all airports in the country. Police also checked every male passenger who travelled to Manila with a 10-year-old female child (on that day),” he said.
“There was no ‘Abu Huda’ on the immigration list. Abu Huda is highly likely an alias, a nickname that is commonly used by militants. Under such circumstances, it is very difficult to establish the identity of this Abu Huda,” the source said.
The counter-terrorism source said the Indonesian investigation team also failed to obtain from Philippine authorities the alleged bombers’ digital footprint.
“Indonesian police sent to Manila did not get any digital footprint of the alleged couple that could have shed light on where they went, who they communicated with, anything that could have helped establish their identities,” the source said. “Under such circumstances, it is going to be very difficult to make headway in this investigation,” he said.
When the Philippines first announced that Indonesian suicide bombers were behind the blast, Indonesian Security Minister Wiranto urged Filipino authorities not to rush into accusing Indonesians as the perpetrators before confirming the facts. He described the statements from Manila as “one-sided news.”
“Until now the coordination has not been completed, and responsibility remains with the Philippine authorities themselves – the police, the parties concerned in the matters,” Wiranto told reporters in Jakarta. Analysts have also raised doubts over the Philippine claims linking Indonesians to the bombings
“There’s no evidence! Different officials are saying different things – Malaysians, Yemenis, Indonesians,” Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told the Jakarta Post last week. “They actually have no clue.”