POLICE investigators said that a Muslim cleric was the likely target of explosions that killed two people in Quiapo, Manila, on Saturday as they rejected the claim of the Islamic State that it was behind the attacks.
The explosions that occurred three hours apart injured six persons. The blasts rocked the office of the imam, Nasser Abinal.
Oscar Albayalde, head of the National Region Police Office, said the bomb was apparently intended for Abinal, who is also government tax officer for the Manila region.
Abinal was not at the office at the time.
“He admitted there were threats to his life in the past,” while being questioned by police, Albayalde said.
The bomb was carried in a package by a hired delivery man who handed it over to an aide of Abinal just before it went off, killing them both.
As police were searching the blast site late Saturday, another explosion rocked the area, possibly from a second bomb planted earlier, said Albayalde.
“This has nothing to do with terrorism. There is no indication that this was done by a terror group, local or foreign,” he said.
The Islamic State group has claimed it staged the explosion.
“Five Shiites were killed and six others wounded in a bomb blast by Islamic State fighters in the centeR of Manila,” said a statement from Amaq, IS’s propaganda arm.
Albayalde said this was just the IS custom of taking credit for any such incidents.
The Islamic State has carried out attacks in other countries on Shiite sites and events.
But Albayalde said the attack seemed to have targeted Abinal, adding that it may be for personal reasons, his work or his religion.
Tension remained high after the blasts, with police cordoning off the area again on Sunday after a suspicious bag was spotted.
A bomb disposal robot later established it was a false alarm.
Malacañang urged the public to be alert and avoid spreading “unverified” news that may cause panic.
Just over a week ago, another explosion injured 14 people in Quiapo as Southeast Asian leaders were meeting for a summit a few kilometers away.
The IS also claimed responsibility for the April 28 explosion.
Grab Philippines condemned the bombing.
“We are deeply saddened the incident took the lives of two civilians, including one of our GrabExpress partners. Our prayers go out to those who perished, and we extend our sympathies and deepest condolences to their loved ones,” it said in a statement.
It was not immediately known who contacted the GrabExpress to deliver the package containing an improvised explosive.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on Sunday said that he expects intelligence agencies to identify and arrest those behind the blasts.
“We set aside a lot of money for intelligence agencies. If they can’t prevent these explosions, I expect that at the very least, they [the intelligence agencies]can catch the culprits and prevent things like these from happening again,” he said.
“I sympathize with the victims and commend policemen for their quick response. But I am wondering where the intelligence agencies are. Preventing these explosions is their job,” he added.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND AL JACINTO