ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 26, 2007) – Government forces heightened security in Sulu province, south of Manila, after soldiers detonated a homemade bomb planted by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, officials said Wednesday.
Officials said the bomb was left outside the Helen’s Lodge, a budget motel in Jolo town and detonated by soldiers Monday.
No group claimed responsibility for the foiled bombing, but government forces were put in red alert to thwart possible bombings during the holidays.
A homemade bomb exploded on Monday outside a barber shop in Cotabato City, wounding three people.
It was unknown if the attack was connected to the foiled bombing in Sulu, where security forces are pursuing Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996.
But three civilians and a soldier were also killed in fighting over the weekend in Sulu’s Kalingalan Caluang town between military and rebel forces. At least 17 people, including five soldiers were also wounded in the clash on Saturday in the village of Pangdan-pangdan.
Fighting also erupted last month in Kalingalan Caluang town that left eight soldiers and four rebels dead.
The Abu Sayyaf have been blamed for past attacks and kidnappings-for-money in the southern Philippines, while the MNLF signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996, but many were disgruntled with the accord and joined other rebel groups.
The MNLF has repeatedly accused the government of reneging on the agreement, which Manila strongly denied. Under the peace deal, the Philippine would have provided a mini-Marshall plan and livelihoods and housing to tens of thousands of rebels.
In 2001, MNLF gunmen, who were loyal supporters of Nur Misuari, attacked and tried to capture a major military base in Sulu province and another group seized more than 100 people in Zamboanga City.
After the attacks, MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari fled to Sabah by boat, but was captured by Malaysian authorities and eventually deported to the Philippines. (Nickee Butlangan)