• 6 DEAD IN COTABATO EXPLOSION

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    Investigators look for evidence among wreckage after a bomb explosion in Cotabato City. The powerful bomb killed six people and injured at least 26 others, police said. AFP Photo

    Investigators look for evidence among wreckage after a bomb explosion in Cotabato City. The powerful bomb killed six people and injured at least 26 others, police said. AFP Photo

    AT least six persons were killed and scores injured after an improvised bomb exploded on Monday afternoon in Cotabato City, police said.

    The explosion occurred on Sinsuat Avenue in Barangay R-10 in Cotabato City. Initial police reports said the bomb was placed on a motorcycle parked near a hospital and a school.

    “The explosion was on a very busy street. There are five confirmed fatalities,” City Police chief Senior Superintendent Rolen Balquin said in an interview on Catholic radio station dxMS immediately after the blast.

    It damaged at least four vehicles and started a fire that engulfed a nearby mortuary and a tire repair shop, he added.

    No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and Balquin said the motive was still being investigated.

    Cotabato is a mixed Muslim-Catholic city.

    It was the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days.A powerful blast at a restaurant packed with doctors and pharmaceutical salesmen in Cagayan de Oro City killed eight people on July 26.

    Authorities could not immediately say if the explosion was linked to the global terror warning issued by the United States last week.

    The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it has intensified security as the United States extended its warning of possible attacks by al-Qaeda extremists.

    PNP Public Information chief Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac on Monday said security officials were extra vigilant “because there are domestic threat groups with links to the al-Qaeda that are operating in the Philippines.”

    “Our recent arrests, particularly that of the CIDG-NCR and the PNP-Intelligence Group (IG), show our sustained and intensified efforts against these terrorist groups,” Sindac said.

    “Our own response to this worldwide US travel warning is consistent with our own security procedures and protocols, particularly our 3-tiered defense-system of intelligence, target-hardening and incident management,” he added.

    A police intelligence official had said that the Cagayan de Oro blast may have been the work of the group of Basit Usman, a rogue Moro rebel commander. Usman, according to the police source, have links with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) whose members were reportedly trained to make bombs by the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Abu Sayyaf.

    The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) also tightened the screening procedure of people entering the airport premises.

    According to airport security chief Salvador Peñaflor, the tight security also covers airport workers.

    Bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the airport’s four terminals. Security personnel were also ordered to be strict in inspecting luggage.

    Peñaflor also noted that US-bound aircraft such as the Delta Airlines and other European flights are particularly under tight watch.

    Malacañang had said the government is intensifying its intelligence gathering in response to the US terror warning.

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