A soldier hurt in the blast. Photo Courtesy of 1st Mechanized Brigade
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) – A reporter and a cameraman of a television network were among those wounded following an explosion on Saturday morning in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
TV5 reporter Jeff Caparas and cameraman Adrian Bulatao were hurt in the blast.
Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, said four other civilians and four soldiers were also wounded in the incident.
The victims are now in "good condition," Hermoso said in an interview with ANC's "Dateline Philippines." He noted that the reporter and cameraman were wearing protective helmets and vests when the blast occurred.
But according to a report from Agence France-Presse, the head of TV5's news division, Luchi Cruz-Valdes, said Bulatao's injury was "serious" with shrapnel wounds over the right side of his body.
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"Bulatao is in shock but conscious, in pain," she said in an SMS message.
Caparas was also wounded but was still on his feet, she added.
The TV crew was in the area of Barangay Salvo in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, said to be one of the former stronghold of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to cover an earlier explosion when the blast occurred at around 8 a.m.
According to Hermoso, the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device, which was triggered by a cellphone.
The national highway from Datu Saudi Ampatuan going to Datu Piang was temporarily closed after the incident.
Hermoso said they are now studying if they would still extend for another 72 hours their offensive operation against the BIFF rebels, noting that innocent civilians have been hurt in their latest attack.
The military operation was launched almost a week ago after the government successfully concluded peace talks with the main Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in order to end decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The BIFF, a breakaway Muslim rebel group, is opposed to the talks and has previously launched attacks such as bombings in order to derail the peace process.
The military has said that 52 rebels and one soldier had been killed since the government launched the offensive. With reports from Arianne Apatan, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao; Agence France-Presse