MANILA (Reuters) - Two people including a boy were killed and nine others wounded in an apparent improvised bomb blast on Tuesday on a southern Philippines island claimed by Islamic rebels, a senior army general said.
“Our troops are helping the local police investigate the bomb attack,” Lieutenant-General Arthur Tabaquero told reporters, saying two people died while being treated at a hospital in Cotabato City on Mindanao island about 894 kms (556 miles) south of the capital Manila.
Ten others, some of them women, were being treated for shrapnel wounds, he added.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. But security officials suspect a rogue faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that controls parts of Mindano and other nearby islands in the Philippines archipelago.
The Muslim rebellion, one of two long-running insurgencies in the poor but resource-rich Southeast Asian state, has also displaced 2 million people and scared off potential investors in southern mines, oil-and-gas fields and fertile farmlands.
The attack came a day after the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and ahead of peace talks between the government and the country’s largest separatist rebel group, the MILF, in Kuala Lumpur on August 15.
Negotiators from the two sides are set to meet for another round of talks on Aug 15 in Kuala Lumpur, where the government panel is supposed to show rebels a proposed political formula to end 40 years of conflict that has killed 120,000 people.
The government has expressed concerned over the existence of a splinter group in the MILF, saying the success of the peace negotiations hinged on efforts by the rebels to resolve internal problem.
A military spokesman, Colonel Prudencio Asto, said fragments of four 81mm mortar rounds and a Nokia 5110 handphone, used as a triggering device, were recovered in the blast site.
The bomb was placed in a Honda XRM motorcycle parked in front of a gun store in Cotabato City, officials said.
Asto said the type of improvised bomb matched with previous attacks attributed to a rogue Muslim rebel faction opposed to peace negotiations with the government.
“The signature of the crude bomb used was similar to those used by Jemaah Islamiah-trained rogue MILF rebels,” he said.
Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Ed Lane