MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 22, 2009) – Two civilians were wounded after an improvised bomb exploded near a market in the southern Philippines and security officials linked the attack to the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Security officials said there were no casualties in the blast late Tuesday in the town of Lebak in Sultan Kudarat province. “A man carrying a back pack left a package in the area and minutes later it exploded,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a regional army spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the MILF was behind the attack, although authorities are still investigating the motive of the bombing.
Ponce said the MILF’s special unit headed by Usman Basit, who is wanted by the United States for terrorism, was behind the attack. Basit was previously linked by the military to Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiya terror group.
Washington also offered up to $50,000 bounty for Basit’s capture.
Ponce said just last week, government troops recovered a cache of weapons left behind by rebels in Maguindanao province. He said the rebels have launched a series of attacks in recent weeks in Mindanao.
The MILF, which is fighting for independence in the restive region, denied any involvement in the latest bombing. “Not us, we have no involvement in the attack. We are pro-people, we are for peace,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said in a separate interview.
Kabalu tied the blast to political feud. “The bombing could be the result of a political feud,” he said without further elaborating.
On Monday, two powerful explosions damaged the Agus Bridge in Lanao del Norte’s Iligan City. The bridge connects several provinces in Mindanao. The military also tagged the MILF as behind the attack.
Manila opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001, but the negotiations collapsed last year after government negotiators reneged on a deal that would grant some four million Muslims a separate homeland across more than 700 villages in Mindanao. The Supreme Court said the deal was unconstitutional. (Mindanao Examiner)