Monday, April 20, 2009

Philippine bridge bombed

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 20, 2009) – Two powerful explosions before dawn Monday damaged a bridge in Lanao del Norte’s Iligan City in the restive region of the southern Philippines, where security forces are fighting Moro rebels, officials said.

Officials said the twin blasts occurred at around 1.30 a.m. and damaged the Agus Bridge that connects several provinces in Mindanao Island. No one was hurt in the attack.

“Both approaches of the structural support of the Agus Bridge was blown off causing it to sag and rendering the bridge impassable to all types of vehicles,” Army First Lieutenant Steffani Cacho, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.

She said authorities were investigating the motive and the type of type of explosives used in the attack. But police initially said that howitzer cannon were probably used in the bombing.

No group or individual claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the attack coincided with military offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao province. Military suspicion also fell on the MILF.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, denied involvement in the bombing of the bridge. “We have nothing to do with the bombing nor we have plans to launch counter offensives despite government attacks on rebel strongholds in Maguindanao,” Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said in a separate interview.

The MILF, which is fighting for independence, said security forces shelled rebel strongholds in at least six towns in the province, but there had been no reports of casualties.

Security forces had been tracking down a senior MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar who led rebel forces in attacking civilian targets in Lanao del Norte last year after the failed signing of the Muslim homeland deal with government peace negotiators.

The failed signing of the homeland deal led to the collapse of the peace talks. President Gloria Arroyo opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001. (With a report from Merlyn Manos)

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