MANILA, Philippines - Authorities suspect the bombing outside Zamboanga City's airport terminal was a failed assassination attempt on the provincial governor of Sulu.
Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino told ANC's "The Rundown" on Friday night that the results of the initial probe into the bombing, which killed 2 people and injured more than 20, show that terrorists were not involved.
"After the initial investigations of the police, it now appears to be a failed assassination attempt rather than an act of terrorism," Dolorfino told ABS-CBN News's Ces Drilon.
Sulu Governor Sakur Tan said on Friday he had been the target of the bomb, and investigators said they did not think it was a suicide bombing.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday evening, but a small group of Islamist militants with ties to al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah is known to have detonated crude bombs in the past.
"I am convinced I was the target of that bomb attack," Tan told ABS-CBN News.
"I was leaving the airport terminal when there was a powerful explosion. I was a few meters away and it happened almost in front of me."
Tan, re-elected to a second term in May, survived a roadside bomb explosion last year on Jolo, a hotbed of Muslim militancy, where a small team of U.S. troops has been deployed since the mid-2000s to train and advise local soldiers.
Security officials dismissed speculation that Thursday's attack was carried out by a suicide bomber after the man with the backpack that exploded was killed.
"The possibility of him being a suicide bomber is highly improbable," military spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta told reporters.
Investigators said the man, identified as Reynaldo Apelado, a Christian and former police volunteer, seemed unaware that he was carrying an improvised explosive device (IED) based on closed circuit television footage and testimony from witnesses.
Police said some witnesses had told investigators the backpack had been given to Apelado by another man.
The Philippines has no history of suicide bombings.
Traces of petrol and ammonium nitrate were found near the blast site, but investigators found no trigger device and no shrapnel. Most of the injured had burns and lacerations.
Dolorfino said they have added security personnel in some areas of Zamboanga City such as bus terminals, sea ports, and commercial areas as they try to prevent a similar incident.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) ordered heightened security at all airports in the country following the bombing incident.
“This is a very unfortunate incident and we sympathize with all the victims and their families. We are also alarmed with this incident and I have given strict instructions to elevate security to heightened status at all airports,” said CAAP director-general Alfonso Cusi.
Cusi said there was no security breach in the airport terminal.
He also directed the Zamboanga airport security office to closely coordinate and fully cooperate with police and the city's crisis management committee in their investigations.
Police also stepped up patrols of government installations, shopping malls and parks. - With reports fom Manny Mogato, Reuters