Grenade blasts kill 1, wound 32 in Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Suspected Muslim guerrillas hurled two grenades near a crowded town plaza where a beauty contest was being held in the southern Philippines, killing at least one person and wounding 32 others, security officials said Sunday.
The attack happened late Saturday in Maasim, Sarangani province, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Manila, police chief Abraham Madrid said.
More than 100 policemen and army troops from nearby regions will be deployed to secure Maasim township, which will celebrate a religious festival Sunday, officials said.
Maasim is a predominantly Christian town of more than 30,000 in the Philippines’ south, a region which is home to most of the country’s minority Muslim population. A bombing there last August was blamed on Muslim rebels, and Madrid told The Associated Press that investigators were trying to determine if the same guerrillas were behind Saturday’s attack.
He said two men hurled one grenade each: one at a group of men who were playing a card game at a table, the second at another group of men at a karaoke bar, near the Maasim town plaza, where a beauty contest was being held. At least one person was killed and 32 wounded. The injured were being treated in two hospitals.
Army Lt. Col. Edgardo de Leon later Sunday blamed Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas for the attack.
He said the military had received an intelligence that the rebels planned to carry out bombings in Maasim and nearby regions, but the attacks happened shortly before additional troops arrived in the area.
Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu condemned the grenade attacks as a “terrorist act,” adding that such violence has long hampered economic progress.
The rebels could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last year, they attacked several predominantly Christian towns in the region to protest a failed autonomy deal with the government. The rebel attacks led to the collapse of Malaysian-brokered peace talks and prompted a major military offensive.
The 11,500-strong rebel front has been fighting for decades for self-rule by minority Muslims in the country’s south.