Blast hits Ampatuan mansion in Maguindanao

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 04 2010 07:01 PM | Updated as of Jan 05 2010 03:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Two blasts hit Shariff Aguak, capital town of Maguindanao province, Sunday evening, one of them outside the mansion of the patriarch of the Ampatuan clan.

Police said a round from a grenade launcher exploded just outside of the perimeter fence of Andal Sr.'s mansion at Barangay Poblacion in Shariff Aguak 10 p.m. Sunday. The blast reportedly occurred behind a mosque in the former Maguindanao governor’s compound.

A second blast happened behind a Petron gasoline station, also in Shariff Aguak.

Both blasts were reportedly small, and no one was reported hurt from the explosions.

The blast near the mansion of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. came a day before the first hearing of the multiple murder case on the Maguindanao massacre last November 23, which killed at least 57 people.

Senior Superintendent Alex Lineses, Maguindanao provincial police director, said they suspect that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were behind the blasts based on statements of witnesses.

He said, however, that these reports have yet to be confirmed.

"We suspect it was the work of MILF rebels out to get even with the Ampatuans," Lineses said, but added that police were not ruling out "lawless elements" outside the MILF.

Lineses also said that looting could also be the motive of the incident. No valuables, however, were reported stolen from the Ampatuan patriarch’s mansion.

However, one of Andal Sr.’s helper was reportedly injured although it was apparently not connected with the explosion since he suffered stab wounds.

The MILF, however, denied any participation in the blast pointing instead to members of civilian volunteer organizations controlled by the Ampatuans.

Andal Sr. is the patriarch of the powerful political clan in Central Mindanao, whose leaders are being investigated for their alleged roles in the massacre of at least 57 people in Maguindanao on November 23.

The murders, which included lawyers and at least 30 journalists, were allegedly carried out to keep a rival from running against one of his sons in the 2010 elections.

Several key members of the Ampatuan clan, including Andal Sr., have been arrested in connection with the massacre. His son, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Jr., tagged as the principal suspect in the gruesome massacre, is due to go on trial on Tuesday. He is charged with multiple counts of murder.

Andal Sr. is currently detained at a military hospital in Davao City. He also faces rebellion charges filed by the government. With a report from Jasper Acosta, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao and Agence France-Presse