ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 9, 2011) – A powerful improvised explosive went off late Saturday inside a lodging house in the troubled province of Basilan in the southern Philippines, officials said.
Officials said the explosion, which occurred shortly before 7 p.m. was so powerful that it destroyed the Spasky lodging house owned by Jose Tihadain in Lamitan City. The number of casualties was not immediately known and soldiers were sent to the area to search for possible survivors from the rubble of the rooming house.
“The lodging house was totally collapsed due to the powerful explosion. Soldiers and policemen were in the area to search for victims of the blast,” said Army Colonel Alex Macario, commander of military forces in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous bombings in Basilan had been largely blamed to Abu Sayyaf militants with links to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists.
The explosion came barely a week after troops killed two suspected militants during a raid in Basilan’s Sumisip town where security forces are tracking down the Abu Sayyaf group blamed for the spate of attacks and kidnappings in the province.
Soldiers recovered two M16 automatic rifles, 5 generator sets, camouflage uniforms, and 15 motorcycles and other personal belongings from the raid.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding a Chinese-Filipino trader Larry Tam delos Santos who was kidnapped in December in Basilan’s Isabela City. And the group is believed behind two more kidnappings which occurred in Zamboanga City and in the town of Titay in Zamboanga Sibugay province and that the victims – Olivia Barredo, 36, and Randy Talania, 9, were allegedly taken to Basilan.
Last month, Abu Sayyaf militants barged into the house of a businessman in Basilan and abducted his caretaker, Rolando dela Cruz, after failing to kidnap the trader, Charlie Cawley. The gang abandoned their hostage and was recovered safely by pursuing army soldiers. (Mindanao Examiner)