Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bomb explodes in Cotabato City in Mindanao

Army bomb experts investigate the scene where a homemade bomb exploded Tuesday, March 24, 2009 in Mindanao's Cotabato City in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales).

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 24, 2009) – A homemade bomb exploded Tuesday morning on a roadside in Cotabato City in the restive region of southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the bomb was left on a jeep parked along the highway in the village of Tamontaka. No one was reported injured or killed in the blast that occurred at around 7.15 a.m., said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ponce said soldiers recovered fragments of 60mm mortar bomb and broken pieces of a cellular phone used to trigger detonation. “It was an IED (improvised explosive device) alright and it’s good that no one was hurt or killed in the attack,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

No group or individual claimed immediate responsibility for the explosion, but Ponce pointed to the country’s largest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“This could be part of a terrorism campaign aimed at forcing the government to resume the collapsed peace talks with the MILF,” Ponce said, adding, the attacks coincided with the visit to Manila of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“We have noticed an increase in MILF bombings the past days which coincided with Blair’s visit to the Philippines,” he added.

Blair arrived in Manila on Sunday for a series of speaking engagements and also met with President Gloria Arroyo.

The MILF denied any involvement in the blast and branded the military reports as propaganda. “These military reports are all propaganda aimed at derailing future peace talks between the MILF and the Philippine government,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said in a separate interview.

Arroyo opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but the negotiations collapsed in August last year after Manila reneged on a deal that would give homeland to more than four million Muslims in the southern Philippines.

The MILF has been fighting the past decades for the establishment of a separate Muslim homeland. Kabalu said the MILF would only resume peace talks if Arroyo honors the Memorandum on the Ancestral Domain that peace negotiators initially signed in July in Malaysia. (Mindanao Examiner)

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