ZAMBOANGA CITY – Seven persons were reported killed and 42 others were seriously injured when a bomb exploded in front of a bus terminal at Barangay Guiwan at 3:45 p.m. Friday, health officials said.
In a local TV interview, doctors with the Health Department’s Region 9 office said the fatalities remained unidentified while the injured were taken to Western Mindanao Medical Center and Zamboanga Peninsula Medical Center.
Rep. Celso Lobregat later quoted City Health Office chief Rodelyn Agbulos as saying that only one victim, a tricycle driver named Reynaldo Tan, was confirmed dead.
Witnesses said the powerful blast destroyed several parked cars and tricycles along the main road, a portion of the terminal and surrounding stores and canteens, and sent people into a panic. The blast could be heard and felt in nearby barangays.
City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar deplored the attack and ordered police to identify and arrest those responsible. She also appealed for calm.
Initial information said the explosion came from a car parked in front of the bus terminal, some seven kilometers away from Zamboanga City proper.
Hours after the blast, no groups claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Climaco-Salazar said in a radio interview that the explosion might be connected to a foiled jail break by Abu Sayyaf bandits on Monday.
She had earlier asked the Justice Department to immediately transfer several high-profile Abu Sayyaf bandits from the city jail to a Metro Manila detention facility, a jail official said.
The jail warden said an attempt to break them out was foiled Monday. The blast came barely a week after Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang visited Zamboanga City and Sulu and ordered military commanders to strengthen security measures in the country’s southern back door.
Catapang was zeroing in on potential threats from terrorist groups apparently trying to sow violence in Zamboanga City and other parts in Mindanao. Combined police and military forces have already cordoned off the scene of explosion, and deployed additional personnel in an attempt to prevent another bombing.
In Zamboanga City, security forces were also mobilized to thwart any possible bombing attempt.
Last week, the terrorist group Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) launched a series of bomb attacks on military posts and schools.
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