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News Update: Bombing In Makati City, General Santos City, And Davao City

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  • News Update: Bombing In Makati City, General Santos City, And Davao City

    Valentine bombing spree
    By Edith Regalado, John Paul Jubelag and Evelyn Macairan
    The Philippine Star 02/15/2005

    Three bomb explosions in a span of one hour jolted a nation celebrating Valentine’s Day last night, killing at least seven people and wounding over a hundred others, military and police officials said.

    The extremist group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility in a phone call between the explosions, calling it retribution for a major military offensive against Islamic gunmen in Mindanao.

    The death toll is expected to rise as in Makati City alone, where one of the bombings took place, around 70 people were rushed to three different hospitals. Police said three people were killed as a passenger bus exploded in flames and scattered debris that hit two other buses.

    Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Edgar Aglipay ordered the 114,000-strong police force to tighten security in vital installations and commercial establishments nationwide.

    Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Solaiman called the bombings a Valentine’s Day "gift" to President Arroyo.

    Malacañang denounced the bombings as "despicable acts of terror" as it asked the public to "brace themselves against these attacks on our freedom and security."

    The first blast, outside the Gaisano Mall in General Santos City, killed at least three people and wounded around 33 others, police said. The blast took place around 6:30 p.m. and was heard two kilometers away, witnesses said.

    The PNP said the bomb was stashed in a bag at a stand for three-wheel pedicabs about 30 meters away from the mall entrance.

    A 12-year-old boy died on the spot when another bomb went off almost simultaneously at a bus terminal in Davao City, also in Mindanao. Five others were injured.

    "You can attribute this to us," Solaiman said in a call to local radio 20 minutes before the Makati blast. "There is one more to come."

    The third bombing was reported soon afterward on a bus along the busy highway of EDSA in the financial district of Makati just below the station for an elevated train of the Metro Rail Transit and near the Intercontinental Hotel.

    Three people died on the spot while 74 others were hurt when a powerful bomb ripped through the RRCG Transport bus with license plates TWR-304 during rush hour at around 7:50 p.m., said Director Avelino Razon, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO). The blast set two nearby buses on fire.

    The dead were identified as Jose Marie Balboa, who was driving the second bus tailing the bombed RRCG Transport, and Bernardo de la Cruz Rizarito of Las Piñas. The third casualty was an unidentified female.

    The charred body of one passenger was found still seated with a hand holding the seat railing.

    The bomb went off inside a southbound passenger bus, Razon said, as it slowed down near the intersection of EDSA and Ayala Avenue to pick up passengers. The back of the bombed bus was destroyed and all of its windows blown out.

    In a second call to dzBB radio, Solaiman said: "Our latest operations — planned and executed with precision by the gallant warriors of Islam — is our continuing response to the Philippine government’s atrocities committed against Muslims everywhere."

    "We will find more ways and means to inflict more harm to your people’s lives and properties, and we will not stop unless we get justice for the countless Muslim lives and properties that you people have destroyed," Solaiman said.

    Earlier in the day, five explosive devices containing trinitrotoluene (TNT) were defused after they were found in front of a building in San Martin de Porres along East Service Road in Parañaque City.

    In a statement, Malacañang assured the people that authorities have tightened security in all public and private installations to prevent any further attacks.

    Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye vowed the government would remain "relentless in our offensive against terror while keeping innocent civilians out of harm’s way."

    "We shall not be intimidated but we must be alert and united in our vigilance, for these are the challenges we must face to win our peace and stability as a nation," Bunye said. "The whole civilized world including the Islamic countries are with us in this righteous fight."

    Officials have expressed concern over the prospect of a terrorist attack in the country’s restive south as the military carries out an all-out assault on Jolo island against a group of gunmen who recently attacked troops in the region, sparking clashes that have killed at least 60.

    The gunmen are believed to include followers of jailed Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari, backed by Abu Sayyaf members.

    Col. Buenaventura Pascual, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said the Abu Sayyaf "is exploiting" the military operations against renegade rebels to make it appear that Muslims are being targeted and aggravated.

    "But this is not justified," Pascual said, noting that the conflict in Mindanao is "isolated" and should not be treated as "a fight between Muslims and Christians."

    "We warned our units about these threats as early as last week," Aglipay said. "We have already advised our policemen in the field to see to it that all necessary security measures be taken to avoid people being killed or injured."

    A bombing killed at least 14 people and wounded 70 others Dec. 12 in General Santos, a bustling, predominantly Christian city of 500,000 people about 1,000 kilometers south of Manila.

    It was the first terror attack there since a shopping mall blast killed 14 people in 2002. Several Muslim militants were charged with multiple murder over the attack.

    Leonora Uy, who works in Makati, said she and her friend had just crossed EDSA from Fort Bonifacio in a car when they heard a loud explosion that shook the ground.

    "People started to panic," she said.

    Another witness saw thick smoke bellowing from the ill-fated bus after the explosion.

    "The windows shook. It was scary," said Marco Aventajado, who is staying on one of the top floors in the Twin Towers overlooking the site of the devastated area.

    Raw television footage showed the roof of the bus was nearly torn off, its windshield and windows blown apart, and debris along with belongings of the passengers scattered along EDSA.

    In Davao, authorities compared the blast to a giant "fire*******" exploding.

    "There were no shrapnel and what exploded was like a big ball of fire******* powder that they set off," Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said.

    The explosion took place just beside a small stall Muslim Halal Eatery right at the main gate of the Davao City Overland Terminal along Quimpo Boulevard in the Ecoland Subdivision area.

    "The explosion was so strong. We all ran for safety," one of the passengers at the terminal told The STAR.

    Duterte also refused to speculate on whether the explosion was meant to merely threaten and not meant to harm anyone.

    "I still do not know yet who was behind the explosion and what was the motive. We have to wait for further investigation," the mayor said.

    He also declined to speculate if the Davao City and General Santos explosions were linked and if they were perpetrated by the same group.

    "It is hazardous to conclude anything (about) if the explosions have something to do with each other. But the question is, why is it that the one in General Santos was really a bomb and the one in Davao City was made of fire******* materials?" the mayor said, adding that authorities still have to look into this.

    In General Santos, Chief Superintendent Antonio Billones, police director for Central Mindanao, said the explosive shattered the windowpanes of two nearby restaurants. – With AFP, Roel Pareño, John Paul Jubelag, Edu Punay