Troops and police tightened security yesterday to guard crowds of Filipinos returning from Easter holiday trips, and police detonated a small bomb -- which they said was not the handiwork of terrorists -- outside the Spanish Embassy.
Government forces have been on full alert nationwide after the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group threatened to avenge the deaths of some of its captured commanders in a botched jailbreak two weeks ago.
Police found and safely detonated a small homemade bomb, wired to a cell phone, late Saturday outside a building housing the Spanish Embassy in the capital's Makati financial district, said Metropolitan Manila Police Chief Avelino Razon.
A Spanish Foreign Ministry statement issued in Madrid said police safely detonated two devices outside its embassy in Manila without causing any damage. However, Razon said authorities found only one bomb, in a shoe box, and that it lacked components and a blasting cap.
The bomb, made of gunpowder wrapped with firecracker paper and stuffed in a canister, was designed differently from those used in the past by Muslim militants, he said.
Police said bombings planned by the Abu Sayyaf may have been pre-empted after troops arrested a suspected Muslim militant who provided information that led to last week's discovery of about 600kg of explosive materials in a house in a northern Manila suburb.
The military said the explosives were intended for terror attacks in the capital during the Easter holidays.
Despite the setback, there were indications that militants were pursuing terror plots. One plan by members of the Abu Sayyaf, the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah and local Muslim converts involved separate attacks in the capital.