Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Bomb in Philippine parliament kills Muslim lawmaker

AGENCIES , MANILA

A bomb exploded at an entrance to the Philippine House of Representatives late yesterday, killing a congressman and a driver and injuring at least nine people, officials said.

Representative Wahab Akbar's chief of staff said Akbar died of wounds in a hospital, and metropolitan Manila police chief Geary Barias said a lawmaker's driver was also killed.

Akbar represented Basilan island, where troops are hunting down remnants of the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group Abu Sayyaf. He had received death threats in the past.

The explosion -- which occurred just after 8pm, shortly after most congressmen had left the premises -- destroyed part of the building's south lobby, House Speaker Jose de Venecia told local radio.

"There is a bomb that exploded in the south wing of the Batasan complex," De Venecia said, adding that he had left the building just 10 minutes before the explosion, which sent concrete flying across the parking lot.

Troops went on heightened alert and security forces set up checkpoints around Manila as President Gloria Arroyo quickly ordered a national police probe into the blast at the sprawling complex north of the capital.

The second man killed was a driver for one of the three injured lawmakers.

His body was found inside a parked vehicle that was hit by debris.

Arroyo ordered national police chief Avelino Razon to "personally supervise the investigation, determine the cause of the explosion which rocked Batasan," her spokesman Ignacio Bunye told reporters.

Barias quickly deployed a team to cordon off the building.

"We had not received any intelligence report" of a possible attack, he said.

"We would like to investigate further. There were two vehicles hit by the blast, and we are trying to recover them. We are investigating right now," he said.

"We are trying to determine where the blast came from," he added.

De Venecia said that he had ordered a "clean sweep" of the complex in order to ensure "there are no other bombs that are left behind."

"It was a very huge explosion," congressman Joel Villanueva said, adding that less than 50 of the House's 275 members were inside when the bomb exploded. "We are stunned."

Congressman Roilo Golez, a former national security chief, condemned the violence but refused to speculate who might be behind it.

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