By Julie Alipala |Inquirer Mindanao
ZAMBOANGA CITY, (July 31) —They had just finished with the Eid prayers. Fasting had just ended and everyone was very excited to get home or to visit relatives and friends in downtown Jolo.
They did not mind that the two jeepneys that they rode from Sitio (settlement) Lumapid in Barangay (village) Lower Talipao in Talipao town was so overloaded that children had to climb to the roof so they would not be left behind.
In the second jeepney, 14-year-old Ahmad Patani Tambrin squeezed himself into a narrow space on the roof where many of his relatives and friends were already positioned. He did not mind the crush. He was looking forward to exchanging greetings in Jolo.
Ahmad’s parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and neighbors managed to squeeze into the first jeepney.
As the two passenger jeepneys—the combined passenger load remained unclear as of Wednesday—negotiated Lower Mount Talipao, there was a sudden burst of explosions.
She also heard gunfire, said Rohida Unga, who was in the first vehicle.
“There were explosions, we saw some armed men. We squeezed tighter hoping not to be harmed. And then there was an eerie silence,”Unga said.
When the smoke cleared, there were bloodied bodies everywhere and the unmistakable atmosphere of terror, she said.
She looked for her son Al Sabur and found him wounded and bloodied on the roof of the jeepney.
Unga recounted seeing bloodied bodies in the seats nearest the driver. From their appearance, she was certain they were dead.
Rohaina Palahuddin, Ahmad’s grandmother, was the only survivor among the family members that took the first jeepney.
Among those who were killed instantly were Ahmad’s mother, his two-year-old brother and an aunt. His father, his three-year-old brother and two more relatives later died in the hospital where they were taken.
Palahuddin said Ahmad was oblivious to what happened. She said she could not bear what would happen to the traumatized Ahmad when he finds out what happened to his family.
In all, 23 died in the ambush, many of them women and children.
Some of the victims that have so far been identified were: Abdul Julhari, 83; Abdukahal Ahadan, 19; Abdulrahim Isahac Omar; Baris Julhair, 19; Maida Hasan, 35; Misyaar Hassan, 14; Padzma Hasan, 32; Jirmalyn Hasa, 15; Dadah Palahuddin, 85; Mura Ahadan, 60; Jainab Ajid, 50; Milina Ahadan, 15; Miriam Binhur, 19; Nurfaisa Gappar, 14; Dayang Ahadan, 19; Tata Isahac, 40; Risalyn Isahac, 7; Saik Ajid, 45; and Said Palahuddin, 35.
Unga said what made things worse for the victims was that no one could immediately come to their aid for fear of reprisal.
She said some victims might have survived if help had been immediately available or if there was a nearby health facility.
“There was no hospital nearby in Talipao,” she said. The nearest hospital facility was in Jolo, which is about an hour’s ride from Talipao. Though there are just 22 kilometers between the two towns, it takes an hour to bridge the distance because of bad roads.–With reports from Nash Maulana and Liza Jocson, Inquirer Mindanao