COTABATO CITY (UPDATED) -- Five people, including a soldier, were wounded after an explosive went off inside a vehicle parked near the plaza in Makakua Street, Cotabato City on Tuesday night.
The vehicle was owned by Ismael Abdullah, a professor in Mindanao State University, who was in a pharmacy when the explosion happened inside his vehicle.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) identified the victims as Army Pvt. Dondon Bambao, 23; Baingan Ango Aliuden, 45; Mambai Datumanong Olandigan, 33; and Abdul Rakman Utto Martin, 22. They were brought to the Cotabato Regional Medical Hospital.
The fifth victim, who was not identified, went home after being administered first aid, the NDRRMC said.
Abdullah told police investigators that he has no idea on the motive for the explosion.
"Wala akong alam na dahilan kung bakit pasabugan ang sasakyan ko. Wala naman akong kalaban at wala naman akong natatanggap na pambabanta sa buhay," he said.
Meanwhile, city police director Senior Superintendent Rolen Balquin said the Cotabato City Police Office, Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO), and the Army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team are conducting an in-depth investigation to determine the motive and the explosive used.
Authorities consider the explosion as an isolated case.
The police and the 5th Special Forces Batallion in the area are now on heightened alert.
Sa ngayon, ini-imbistigahan pa natin kung ano 'yung sumabog. Kung galing ba sa loob ng sasakyan o sa labas nagmula ang pampasabog. Inaalam din natin ang posibleng dahilan ng pagsabog at kung sino ang maaring target," Balquin said.
Meanwhile, Maj. Dante Gania, public affairs officer of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, said the attack was probably carried out by the group of Abu Sayyaf bomb expert Basit Usman, who has links with the Jemaah Islamiyah.
"Most likely, this is the handiwork of Basit Usman," Gania said, adding that the way the bomb was manufactured matched the style of Usman's group.
Gania said the chief of police of Cotabato City warned of a bomb threat last week.
"He said the IED was coming from Sultan Kudarat town (in Maguindanao)," said Gania.
He said security forces have established checkpoints in the city.
More than a month ago, an intelligence official warned that Usman's group was planning to detonate car bombs in the cities of Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and Davao.
The planned attacks are reportedly in retaliation for an earlier raid conducted by government troops on Usman's group in Mamasapano town, also in Maguindanao. - with a report from Jasper Acosta, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao; photos by Albashir Saiden, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao