An improvised bomb exploded Monday in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, wounding at least three people including a two-year-old boy, days after Australia warned of a possible terrorist attack in the country over Christmas.
The bomb “made from an 81 mm mortar with a cell phone triggering device hidden in a sack with sand and partly buried on the ground” exploded on a sidewalk fronting a barber shop in downtown Cotabato, said police Senior Inspector Samson Obatay.
“We are not pointing to any group yet but this looks like a terrorist attack,” Obatay, head of the city’s police mobile group, told The Associated Press.
All three injury victims suffered shrapnel wounds not considered life-threatening, he added.
The Australian Embassy posted a travel advisory on its website Saturday warning Australians to steer clear of places frequented by foreigners, and strongly advised against travel in the southern region of Mindanao, where al-Qaida-linked militants are active.
It said credible information indicates terrorists may be in the advanced stages of planning attacks which could occur anywhere in Mindanao in the lead up to and following the Christmas celebrations.
Philippine national police chief Director General Avelino Razon said Sunday security officials were verifying Australia’s warning but have so far detected no specific terror threat.
The 125,000-strong police force has been placed on ‘heightened alert’ to prevent any attacks and secure crowded public areas, Razon said.
Government forces have been battling a variety of threats led by Marxist guerrillas and at least four Muslim militant groups, including the small but brutal Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted by the US as a terrorist organization. (AP)