Sunday, April 13, 2008

2 Bombings Rocked Zamboanga City In Southern Philippines

Philippine National Police Scene of Crime Officers collect fragments of a bomb that exploded Sunday, April 13, 2008, at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Zamboanga City. A second bomb also exploded outside the Vienna Kaffee Haus near the regional office of the Foreign Ministry, about 2 kilometers away. No groups or individual claimed responsibility for the twin attacks and police says there are no casualties. (Mindanao Examiner Photos)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 13, 2008) – Unidentified bombers struck early Sunday, targeting a Roman Catholic Cathedral and a coffee shop in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, police said.

Police said there were no reports of casualties, but the blasts worried city officials that it would scare investors and tourists in Zamboanga. More than 6,000 visitors are in Zamboanga City for the national convention of pharmacists and the private schools athletes’ competitions.

The first bombing occurred at around 4 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in downtown Zamboanga. The second bomb was detonated five minutes later outside the Vienna Kaffee Haus near the Foreign Affairs regional office, about two kilometers away.

The bombings came barely a week after Australia and the United States warned their citizens against traveling to Zamboanga City and other parts of southern region because of threats of terrorism and kidnappings.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the bombings. The motive of the attack is still unknown.

Mayor Celso Lobregat condemned the bombings and appealed for sobriety and vigilance. “We should remain calm. Let us not panic or show fear because it will just give added victory to the perpetrators,” he said at a news conference.

Lobregat said the authorities are on top of the situation. “We are doing everything to identify the perpetrators of this dastardly act,” he said.

Archbishop Romulo Valles branded the attack on the Church as “an act of darkness,” and called on the citizens to pray and stay united. “We are greatly saddened deeply by these incidents. It is clearly an act of darkness. We should stand united,” he said.

Two cars parked at the church compound were damaged when the bomb, believed to be assembled from an 81mm mortar, exploded under a concrete stairs leading.
Police bomb experts and scene of crime officers were spotted sifting on debris, picking up fragments of the bomb and pieces of evidence.

The cathedral’s two steel gates and walls also bore holes from fragments of the powerful explosion.

“This (explosion) is something huge, powerful as you can see on the damage it caused to the church,” one police investigator told the Mindanao Examiner.

Army soldiers were also sent to the cathedral to help police secure church-goers; many did not know what had happened. “We did not know that a bomb had exploded here. We only saw many policemen and soldiers around and that’s it,” Joaquin dela Cerna in a separate interview.

The second blast also damaged the Vienna Kaffee Haus. The explosion ripped through the café’s steel door, creating a hole about a foot in diameter. Its neon sign was also destroyed and its façade damaged by shrapnel.

“It was really powerful. I heard the blast, but did not see anyone,” a security guard at the Foreign Affairs office said. He declined to give his name, but allowed photographers to take his pictures while inspecting the blast scene.

Last year, a powerful bomb explosion also injured at least 20 people in Zamboanga City. The bomb was planted at a public square in downtown Zamboanga. The Abu Sayyaf was initially blamed by the military for the August 21 attack. But three suspected bombers captured a week later by the police pointed to a military intelligence agent as the mastermind of the bombing.

The bomb was placed under a concrete bench at the Plaza Pershing, named after General John "Black Jack" Pershing, who led American troops fighting the Muslim rebels in Zamboanga and Sulu province in 1899. (Mindanao Examiner)

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