COTABATO, Philippines: Two people were killed and dozens were injured in an explosion that rocked Cotabato City in the southern Philippines hours before New Year.
“It’s a barbaric act and those behind this crime are inhuman,” regional military spokesman Captain Arvin John Encinas told Arab News. Police said the blast occurred at around 2pm outside the South Seas Mall. Troops immediately secured the blast site and conducted road-clearing measures in the area.
Witnesses said that an unidentified man left a package that exploded near the firecrackers vendors a few seconds later. “There was a loud explosion. There are two fatalities so far and 26 wounded, some in critical condition,” Encinas said.
Videos posted on social media showed people scampering for safety after the explosion, which the military said may have been carried out by ISIL-linked militants.
Encinas said while they have been monitoring reports that groups he called “peace spoilers” were planning to conduct improvised explosive device attacks, they were still somehow surprised by the incident. “It has been almost a month since we have received word of potential violence,” he said. “December was a rather peaceful month.”
The victims were both Christian and Muslim. “There was no specific target, as ‘to whom it may concern’ was written on the bomb. It really is a barbaric act,” he said.
Several children were among the wounded. Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, a commander of the Army 6th Infantry Division, said they could not cover every corner considering the large numbers of people around.
Scene-of-the-crime operatives and bomb experts were sent to determine the type of explosive used in the attack. Meanwhile, Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi
strongly condemned the incident, saying: “This is not just another terroristic act, but an act against humanity. I cannot fathom how such evil exists, especially during a period of celebration.”
“We will stand up against terrorism. We will fight against evil,” she added.