5 dead, 5 hurt in Basilan blast
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Five people were killed when a suspected improvised bomb went off in the town of Sumisip on the volatile island province of Basilan on Tuesday as the country prepared to welcome the new year, police said on Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Paulo Perez, commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion, reported earlier that the blast in Tumahubong village in Sumisip killed six, including a minor, and wounded six others.
But Senior Supt. Mario Dapilloza, Basilan provincial police director, said only five people were confirmed killed and five others were wounded in the 10 p.m. blast outside the house owned by Wikwik Haison, driver of the local parish.
Dapilloza identified the dead as Rey Limbin, Elbert Gomoba, Kitarul Kaddik, Leniebel Cisneros and Lourdes Ablong.
Dapilloza said two of the five wounded were minors.
The victims were gathered outside Haison’s house preparing to welcome the new year when the bomb went off, he said.
Dapilloza said the motive of the attack was unclear.
“We suspect it was the Abu Sayyaf,” Dapilloza said later on dzBB radio, describing the blast as “very powerful.”
“The incident is still under investigation by the Sumisip police,” he said.
The Abu Sayyaf, founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden, has been blamed for the Philippines’ worst terrorist attacks, including the kidnapping of foreigners and deadly bombings.
The government has said the group degenerated into a crime gang with no clear ideology over the years, and its ranks fell to just over a few hundred.
Last year, Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed a convoy carrying plantation workers, killing six and wounding 22 in the same area.
Authorities said an Abu Sayyaf faction on a nearby island was believed still to hold a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter.
In December, a Jordanian TV reporter held in captivity for 18 months claimed to have escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors.
The military’s Perez said investigators were looking at several angles.
Investigators were also looking at the possibility of an accidental explosion involving a grenade carried around by a militiaman among Haison’s guests.
Haison’s house was near a Globe telecom cellular site in Sitio (settlement) Pine Tree.—With a report from AFP
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