COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 15, 2009) – Three homemade bombs exploded on Friday and killed a pro-government militia and wounded three others in the restive province of Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the target of the bombings was the provincial governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. He was set to visit a village in Shariff Aguak town at the time of the attacks.
The bombs, assembled from 81mm mortar shells and connected to cell phones, exploded seconds apart on a road where Ampatuan’s convoy was to pass, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.
“The bombs were intended to Governor Ampatuan. He was the real target of the bombings, but the IEDs exploded before his convoy could pass the area,” he said.
Ponce blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels for the failed slay attempt on the life of Ampatuan. “Who else would do that except the rebels,” he said.
There was no statement from Ampatuan, whose brother Datu Zaldy Ampatuan is the governor of the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Their father, Datu Andal Ampatuan, is a political ally of President Gloria Arroyo, and is one of the most influential in the Muslim autonomous region to which Maguindanao belongs.
The MILF has denied any involvement in the attack, saying, it could be related to clan war of family feud and may even be connected to politics.
“The Ampatuans have many enemies. The attacks could be related to a feud or even politics. We have nothing to do with the bombings,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.
The elder Ampatuan also survived several assassination attempts since 2001. In 2006, he was ambushed and survived in Shariff Aguak town after a roadside bomb was detonated near the politician's convoy and authorities blamed the attack to a senior MILF leader, Zaid Pakiladatu, who denied the accusation.
But Pakiladatu's wife was also killed in an ambush in Cotabato City several weeks later after the bombing.
Ampatuan’s son Hoffer was killed during a shoot out at a party in Cotabato City 2002. His brother, Saudi Ampatuan, a town mayor, was also killed in a bomb attack in Maguindanao’s Datu Piang town also in 2002. (Mindanao Examiner)