February 25, 2000: Terrorists detonate planted bombs aboard Filipino ferry

On February 25, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front bombed three buses on a ferry in the Philippines, killing at least 44 people and wounding more than 100.

PANGUIL BAY, PHILIPPINES – It is hard to run from a terrorist attack when you are surrounded by water.

I must confess that I have very little experience with ferries. Sure, I have taken the ferry in Cumberland (just east of Ottawa) to get to Quebec on my way to my aunt’s cottage in the Laurentian hills of Quebec, but that is a mom and pop affair. The trip takes maybe 3 minutes and if worse came to worse I could swim to the far shore.

I did take the ferry once between the North and South Islands in New Zealand back in 1997 and it was a disaster! Not that anything terrible happened but the engines shut down and we drifted for hours before we finally got back. Actually it WAS a disaster: they did not give us free drinks! At least we did not have to worry about terrorists.

Water, water everywhere and not a terrorist to drink with! (Photo: Jeffrey on flickr, CC BY 2.0)

So, what if terrorists attack a ferry? What then?

On this day in 2000

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF – yes, that it what their acronym is!) set off bombs on three buses parked on the ferry from Kolambugan, Lanao de Norte to Ozamiz City across Panguil Bay in the Philippines, killing at least 44 people and wounding more than 100. Apparently the bombs went off when the boat was a mere 20 metres from Ozamiz City.

Previous bus bombings have been largely blamed on the MILF. The group has been extorting money from bus firms in the area.

Brig. Gen. Narciso Abaya, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division

The MILF mysteriously denied it was behind the attack (usually terrorist groups do issue claims as it boosts their image). Still, putting a bomb on a bus on a ferry? Where is the fair play in that?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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