COTABATO CITY—A powerful bomb apparently rigged to a vehicle exploded here on Monday afternoon, killing at least six people and injuring 29 others, including policemen.
The bomb exploded as a bulletproof SUV, carrying City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, was passing by.
Sayadi was not hurt, but two of her police bodyguards in a security van were killed, officials said, adding it was unclear if Sayadi was the target of the attack.
But police were investigating to determine if Sayadi was the target or her brother, Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.
In a statement issued two hours after the explosion, Sayadi said she strongly believed she was the target of the attack.
But she did not say whether she knew who tried to kill her.
Malacañang condemned the bombing and vowed to hunt down and punish those responsible.
“We condemn the use of violence to kill and maim our countrymen who are peacefully going about their daily lives,” said Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“We’ll hold accountable these criminals who terrorize our society,” Coloma said.
Authorities did not immediately point to any suspects, but government forces have been on alert in the South due to recent attacks and bombings by a breakaway Moro insurgent group opposed to peace talks between the administration of President Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He said most of the victims were motorists who were passing by a funeral home on Sinsuat Avenue where a van, parked earlier by a still unidentified man, exploded.
The bomb was apparently rigged to the van, Balquin said.
He said a portion of the funeral parlor, an adjoining establishment, and two motor vehicles parked near the van were destroyed in the fire that followed the explosion.
Among those killed was Chief Insp. Mama Manambuay of the Maguindanao police intelligence unit. His companion, Chief Insp. Abubakar Mangelen, was among the wounded.
All the injured were taken to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC).
Balquin said the bomb went off at the height of the afternoon rush hour, adding that the site of the explosion was significant as it was close to the medical center and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) compound.
The explosion occurred after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MILF, warned of attacks, particularly on military installations, until a “genuine Bangsamoro state” had been achieved.
The BIFF opposes the preliminary peace deal between the government and the MILF for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao.
Government and MILF negotiators have said they hope to conclude a final peace agreement by yearend.
Balquin said investigators could not say whether the explosion here could be linked to the BIFF warning, which came a week after a bomb attack in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and injured 46 others.—With reports from Nash Maulana, Inquirer Mindanao; and AP
Originally posted at 6:55 p.m.