Daesh-Affiliated Militants Blamed for Deadly Philippine Blast
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Philippine authorities Saturday blamed a notorious group of Daesh-affiliated militants for the bombing of a night market in the President Rodrigo Duterte's home town that killed at least 14 people.
An improvised explosive device tore through the bustling market in the heart of Davao city and close to one of its top hotels just before 11:00pm (1500 GMT) Friday.
Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf, a small band of terrorists that has declared allegiance to the Daesh group, most likely carried out the attack in response to a military offensive launched against it last week.
"The office of the president texted and confirmed that was an Abu Sayyaf retaliation. For the city government side, we are working on that it is an Abu Sayyaf retaliation," Davao mayor Sara Duterte, who is also the president's daughter, said, AFP reported.
Philippine’s National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Abu Sayyaf had struck back after suffering heavy casualties on its stronghold of Jolo island about 900 kilometers (550 miles) from Davao.
"We have predicted this and warned our troops accordingly but the enemy is also adept at using the democratic space granted by our constitution to move around freely and unimpeded to sow terror," Lorenzana said in a statement.
Duterte, who was in Davao at the time of the attack but not near the market, told reporters before dawn Saturday that it was an act of terrorism, as he announced extra powers for the military.
At least 14 people were killed and another 67 were wounded in the explosion, police said. Sixteen of the injured were in critical condition, a local hospital director told reporters.
"The force just hurled me. I practically flew in the air," Adrian Abilanosa told AFP shortly after the attack as bodies lay strewn amid broken plastic tables and chairs.
Davao is the biggest city in the southern Philippines, with a population of about two million people. It is about 1,500 kilometers from the capital of Manila.
The city is part of the southern region of Mindanao, where militants have waged a decades-long separatist insurgency that has claimed more than 120,000 lives.
Duterte had been mayor of Davao for most of the past two decades, before winning national elections in a landslide this year and being sworn in as president on June 30.
Duterte became well known for bringing relative peace and order to Davao with hardline security policies, while also brokering deals with local rebels.
Duterte has in recent weeks pursued peace talks with the two main rebel groups, which each has thousands of armed followers. Their leaders have said they want to broker a lasting peace.
However the Abu Sayyaf, a much smaller and hardline group infamous for kidnapping foreigners to extract ransoms, has rejected Duterte's peace overtures.
In response, Duterte deployed thousands of troops onto the small and remote island of Jolo to "destroy" the group.
The military reported 15 soldiers died in clashes Monday, but also claimed killing dozens of Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
On Saturday morning, Duterte declared a national "state of lawlessness", which his security adviser said gave the military extra powers to conduct law enforcement operations normally done only by the police.
While Davao has been regarded as relatively safe compared with other parts of Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf and other militant groups have carried out deadly attacks there in the past.