Twin bomb blasts in 2 Philippine malls kill 6, injure 38

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Map of Lanao del Norte showing the location of Iligan City where the explosions occurred.

Twin blasts, allegedly caused by improvised explosive devices, rocked two upscale malls in the main financial district in Aguinaldo Street in Iligan City on Thursday. At least three people were killed and forty-seven were wounded when two improvised crude bombs exploded and damaged the Unicity Commercial Center at 1:35 p.m. and the nearby Jerry’s Shoppers Plaza 10 minutes later.

The mall blasts occurred a day before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s scheduled visit to the City, her maternal hometown. Lanao del Norte police Superintendent Dimacuta Sanggacala said he "corrected the earlier report that six people had been killed, saying that some of those whom they thought were dead were seriously hurt." "Forty-five people were injured and being treated at the Sanitarium City Hospital and Dr. Uy City Hospital," he added.

The City of Iligan (Cebuano: Dakbayan sa Iligan; Filipino: Lungsod ng Iligan) is a highly urbanized city North of the province of Lanao del Norte, Philippines, and the province's former capital. It is approximately 795 kilometers southeast of Manila with a population of 308,046 people as of 2007.

The provincial police said that CCTV video footages from both malls show two men both wearing scarfs, had placed the explosives inside bags and left at the package or baggage counters of the malls. An L-300 van was also destroyed in the blasts. The local SOCO forces, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (bomb experts) and the bomb-sniffing K9 unit of the 403rd Brigade were immediately dispatched to search the site for more victims.

Col. Nicanor Dolojan, commander of the Army’s 403rd said that “our suspect here are the lawless MILF group because of the type of the (improvised explosive device) that were used. That IED manifest their signature, using mortar rounds. Terrorism, which is their real intention, to sow terror in the area.That is our initial findings.” Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said that his local government received several "threats to bomb establishments - department stores, churches, schools, public places, and markets."

Continuous clashes began in August between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, after the High Court annulled a Memorandum of Agreement on peace. Reuters reported that "five people were wounded in two blasts on December 4 in another part of Mindanao, which army officials blamed on rogue Muslim rebels fighting a long-running insurgency in the south." "There have been at least three bomb attacks on bus terminals in the south since July as violence escalated after Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group, failed to sign a territory deal in August." it added. In November, three people were also injured in the blasts of the Traveler's Inn and the Caprice Lodge in Iligan City.

The Abu Sayyaf Group (lang-arجماعة أبو سياف; Jamāʿah Abū Sayyāf, ASG), also known as 'al-Harakat al-Islamiyya' is one of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern islands of the Philippines, in Bangsamoro (Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao) where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for a state, independent of the predominantly Catholic Philippines.

The Times of India reported that "the southern Philippines region of Mindanao is the hotbed of a decades-old Muslim separatist insurgency that has, in recent years, been suspected of harbouring Islamic militants with ties to the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden."


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