Roadside bomb wounds 7 troops in south Philippines
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Breakaway Muslim guerrillas set off a roadside bomb that wounded seven soldiers on a passing army truck Wednesday in the latest of a series of bombings that has set off a security alarm in the Philippines' volatile south.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement claimed responsibility for the attack against the soldiers, who were returning to camp after buying supplies from a market in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao province. Army troops have clashed with insurgents in the region recently, regional military commander Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz said.
Another bomb made from a mortar round went off before dawn in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province near Maguindanao, damaging some stores but causing no injuries. No group has claimed responsibility for the second bomb, army officials said.
On Monday, a powerful bomb rigged into a small van killed eight people and wounded more than 30 others along a main avenue of Cotabato city, a trading hub also near Maguindanao.
Army troops and police have intensified patrols and surveillance. There have been concerns that the breakaway rebels may intensify attacks, including bombings, when the holy Muslim month of Ramadan ends this week.
Cotabato city officials believe Monday's bombing may have been aimed at city administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who was passing by on board a bullet-resistant SUV along Sinsuat Avenue during rush hour when the bomb was remotely detonated.
Police, however, continue to investigate whether Islamic extremists or an armed group like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement carried out the attack.
The rebel faction broke off from the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, two years ago. The breakaway guerrillas led by ailing commander Ameril Umbra Kato has rejected the talks between the government and the main rebel group and has vowed to continue fighting for a southern homeland for minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.
Abu Misri Mammah, a spokesman for Kato's forces, said his group will continue attacks against government forces.
The military estimates the rebel faction has about 200 armed fighters, mostly based in Maguindanao, a mountainous marshland about 900 kilometers (560 miles) southeast of Manila. Philippine officials believe the rebel faction wanted to sabotage the Malaysian-brokered peace talks involving the main insurgent group which have steadily progressed since last year.
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