One of the latest fatalities was a 4-year-old girl who died while being treated of her wounds at a hospital here. The identities of the latest fatalities, however, were not immediately available.
Senior Supt. Mario Dapilloza, Basilan provincial police director, said the grenade explosion took place as several residents of Sitio Pine Tree in Barangay Tumahubong gathered outside the house of Wikwik Haison, driver of the local parish, around 10 p.m. on Tuesday.
Dapilloza identified the initial five dead victims as Rey Limbin, Elbert Gomoba, Kitarul Kaddik, Leniebel Cisneros and Lourdes Ablong. The ages of the victims were not provided.
Dapilloza said two angles were being eyed in the explosion but he did not elaborate.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the incident has nothing to do with terrorism that the Abu Sayyaf has been known for.
He said authorities were now more inclined to believe that the dispute among locals – brought about by conflicting land claims – was the likely motive behind the grenade attack.
A few years back, claimants of land inside a vast rubber plantation placed under the government’s agrarian reform program had engaged each other in bloody confrontations.
The conflict had become so alarming that officials called the parties involved into a negotiation while pledging to address the land claims.
The bloody confrontations, which also triggered massive dislocations, ceased for quite some time.
Hataman said officials were now trying to address the situation to keep it from worsening.