Abu Sayyaf tagged in explosion
ZAMBOANGA CITY (3rd UPDATE) - An explosion rocked Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City on Friday afternoon, leaving at least 2 people dead and 52 others injured, authorities said.
Initial reports said the explosion hit a Kia car parked in front of a videoke bar near a bus terminal, located along the Maria Clara Lobregat Highway, past 3 p.m.
One of those who died in the blast has been identified as Reynaldo Tan.
A policeman was reportedly among those injured in the blast.
The victims have been brought to different hospitals in the city.
Police and members of the bomb squad are in the area to investigate the incident.
Authorities said Zamboanga City has been receiving threats from lawless elements following the intensified operations of the military against the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The city was recently placed under red alert after a foiled jailbreak at the city jail involving the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama.
Speaking to ANC's "Top Story," Mayor Beng Climaco said the Abu Sayyaf Group could be behind the explosion.
Climaco said the blast could be part of a plot by the terrorist group to break 57 of their "high-value" comrades out of the city jail.
"We have received notices (from the intelligence community) that they are going to be rescued by their comrades, who are ready to die," she said.
A bomb expert clears the area near a bus terminal in Guiwan, Zamboanga City Friday. An explosion left one person dead and injured at least 37 people, police said. Photo by Charlie Saceda for ABS-CBNnews.com
The mayor is seeking the help of the national government to transfer the 57 Abu Sayyaf members from the city jail.
"One of the most urgent concerns that the city of Zamboanga is facing right now is the immediate transfer of these 57 high-value Abu Sayyaf members in our city jail that are posing a threat because of the rescue and have responded through diversionary tactics."
"We want them to be removed out of the city immediately because we don't want to be a magnet and a target of future or present problems that we're having," she said.
The Abu Sayyaf, a loose band of a few hundred militants founded with seed money from Al Qaeda, has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history.
These have included the bombing of a ferry in Manila in 2004 in which more than 100 people died, and repeated kidnappings of foreigners in the southern Philippines who are usually ransomed off for huge amounts.
Many foreign governments warn their citizens against travelling to the southern Philippine areas, including Zamboanga, which are regarded as strongholds for the Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic militants.
The Abu Sayyaf claims it is fighting to establish an independent Islamic homeland in the Muslim populated south of the mainly Catholic Philippines.
Zamboanga was attacked by another armed group loyal to former Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari in September 2013.
The attack triggered three weeks of street battles that left more than 240 people dead and large parts of the city of nearly one million in smoldering ruins.
During the fighting, in which the rebels also used civilians as human shields, about 10,000 homes were destroyed by fires, forcing 116,000 to flee. -- Reports from Queenie Casimiro, Liezel Lacastesantos and Noning Antonio, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga; With Agence France-Presse