ZAMBOANGA CITY: A bomb explosion ripped through a restaurant full of diners in Cagayan de Oro City, killing six people and wounding as many as 37 others, army officials said on Saturday.
Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the blast occurred before midnight Friday at the Kyla’s Bistro in Lim Ket Kai Center.
She said police and military are investigating the explosion and gathering evidence to determine the type of bomb used in the attack.
“We still don’t know at this time. Authorities are still investigating the blast. Six people are confirmed dead and 37 others wounded,” Manuel told The Manila Times.
It was not immediately known how the bomb was slipped through the restaurant’s security undetected.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the explosion, but it occurred just as former Moro rebels denounced Manila’s failure to comply with a peace accord signed in 1996 and fresh threats of war in the southern region.
Officials have not named any suspects or group behind the bombing, but Cagayan de Oro is one of the peaceful cities in the southern Philippines, although its neighboring provinces in northern Mindanao are known stronghold of communist insurgents.
Hours after the blast, the Philippine National Police (PNP) directed all of its regional commands to tighten security.
PNP chief Alan Purisima ordered the Northern Mindanao Regional Police to conduct a thorough probe, hunt the perpetrators and file charges against them. In his directive, Purisima told officials and men of the Northern Mindanao Regional Police Office “not to rest until you have solved this case.”
Killed in the explosion were Misamis Provincial Board Member Roldan Lagbas, Dr. Erwin Malanay, Antonio Paredes, Emmanuel Palafox, Ryan Estose, and Anthony Canete.
Palafox, Estose and Canete were reportedly employees of pharmaceutical Sandoz Philippines Corporation.
Most of the victims were doctors and pharmaceutical salesmen who had just attended a national convention of lung-disease specialists at a nearby hotel, said the city police chief, Senior Superintendent Graciano Mijares.
“This is one of the busiest areas of Cagayan de Oro . . . somebody left a bomb on a chair at the bistro,” he told reporters.
He declined to speculate on the motive for the bombing, saying an investigation was under way.
Cagayan de Oro is located on the main southern island of Mindanao, which has been blighted by a decades-old rebellion by elements of the large Muslim minority in the mainly Catholic Asian nation.
Local businessman Noel Arcenas, who owns an electronics shop at the shopping complex where the restaurant is located, said at least 100 people were inside the bistro when the explosion occurred.
“I felt then heard the blast,” said Arcenas, who added he was standing about 15 meters away.
“I looked around and saw this ball of white smoke. People were running away bloodied and survivors were dragging at least seven or eight people away from the blast site.”
The powerful explosion broke glass panels, upturned tables and chairs, and damaged cars parked up to 30 meters away, reporters at the scene said.