Philippine troops yesterday safely defused a homemade bomb found three hours before it was timed to explode near a public market in the southern Mindanao region, the scene of recent terrorist attacks, officials said.
The bomb, a rocket-propelled grenade and a M203 rifle grenade attached to an alarm clock and batteries in a backpack, was found by a guard near the gate of the Agora public market in southern Pagadian city in Zamboanga del Sur Province, police said.
Investigators were trying to find witnesses to determine who planted the bomb, which was found after dawn in Pagadian, the provincial capital about 780km southeast of Manila, regional police Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal said.
Soldiers and policemen immediately set up checkpoints and intensified patrols in Pagadian following the discovery.
"We're very closely guarding the piers, airports and all places where terrorist activities can happen," Caringal told DZBB radio.
Army Brigadier General Raymundo Ferrer said intelligence information indicated Muslim militants planned to detonate at least six bombs in predominantly Christian Pagadian and troops were checking certain areas of the city for possible bombs.
Authorities have placed Mindanao under "extreme critical alert" -- the highest of a four-step public terror warning system -- after three bombings last week, including one blast that killed six people during a fiesta late on Tuesday in Makilala town in North Cotabato Province.