Militants bomb cathedral and bank in Philippines

 

Suspected Al Qaida-linked militants bombed a Roman Catholic cathedral compound and a bank Sunday in the southern Philippines, police said. No one was injured in the blasts.


Police have been placed on the highest level of security following the dawn explosions in Zamboanga city, regional police Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal said. Government troops and police had already tightened security in the town for a weeklong national sports festival, he said.

Zamboanga, about 860 kilometres (530 miles) south of Manila, is home to US troops providing counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers. The military says the area is home to more than 300 armed members of the Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf terror group.

Caringal said a mortar round, concealed in a box, exploded under a car in the parking lot of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, damaging two cars.

A church caretaker saw three men fleeing the scene on a motorcycle shortly before the blast, Caringal said. The caretaker said the men talked in a dialect spoken on Jolo, a mostly Muslim island.

Caringal said the men were seen fleeing toward downtown Zamboanga, where 15 minutes later another mortar round exploded outside a bank. That bomb, which was set off remotely using a cell phone, damaged the bank’s wall, he said.

Caringal said police suspect the men were Abu Sayyaf or Ji militants, but an investigation was under way.

“The bombings were apparently not meant to kill but aimed to cause fear,” Caringal told The Associated Press by telephone.

“We condemn these acts of terrorism in the highest term,” he said.


Zamboanga, a predominantly Christian city, has seen sporadic bomb attacks in past years, including one that killed a US Green Beret outside an army camp in 2002 and was blamed on Abu Sayyaf militants.

The Abu Sayyaf are on US and European terrorist lists for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bomb attacks. (AP)
 
 
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